The boss is cheered by Ensign hopping aboard the bandwagon, but I’ll believe this when I see it.

The bailout is so toxic within the Senate Republican Conference that McConnell isn’t even coming to the negotiating table because he isn’t ready to cut a deal his fellow GOP senators will hate. McConnell’s aides say that he hasn’t negotiated with Democrats because he hadn’t seen legislative language until late Monday afternoon.

The minority leader sounded torn as he spoke of the auto industry Monday. He said the industry is “an important source of jobs throughout America, including my own state of Kentucky.” But he acknowledged Republican resistance to a bailout, saying, “We cannot expose the taxpayers to new burdens without the promise of avoiding in the future the same mistakes that created these problems in the first place.”

A top Senate Republican aide said that the party will need to “regroup” in a closed-door lunch Wednesday before any deals can be struck.

At least 10 Democrats are still undecided, claims Politico. Aren’t we just going to end up with the same song and dance that we went through when the House initially voted down TARP? Let’s say they filibuster it. The market will immediately tank, throwing everyone into a panic at the prospect of cascading unemployment and generating a million soundbites about how Republicans don’t care about American workers. Then they’ll go back into conference and one of two things will happen. Either they’ll table a comprehensive bailout and agree on a short-term bridge loan to get GM through the next few months so that the new Democratic Senate can revisit the issue in January, or they’ll extract some sort of mostly cosmetic concession to give McConnell cover on “avoiding in the future the same mistakes.” Tying the funds to evidence that the companies are restructuring towards long-term viability has been the White House’s sticking point all along; they’ll figure out a way to make that element of it more robust (which, to be sure, will be all to the good) and then they’ll pass it, with the GOP voting against but eschewing the filibuster this time.

Right? Does anyone seriously see Republicans rolling the dice on letting the auto industry fail in the current economic climate? Exit quotation: “I don’t know that we’ve seen anything like this since the government told the automakers what kind of tanks to make during World War II… And that was just for the duration of the war — this could be for much, much longer.”

Update: Is public opinion moving towards a rescue? A plurality now supports the program, 46/42.