President Bush did not wait long to begin the redistribution of wealth upward.
He signed Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s $700 billion bailout plan into law Friday afternoon, shortly after the U.S. House reversed its Monday rejection of the measure.
The House voted 263-171 to give Paulson the money and dramatic new authority to prop up badly-run financial institutions that he deems “too big to fail.” That compares with Monday’s 228-205 vote against the plan.
Voting “yes” on Friday were 172 Democrats and 91 Republicans. That compares with 140 Democrats and 65 Republicans who voted “yes” on Monday.
Voting “no” on Friday was a reduced bipartisan “skeptics” caucus of 108 Republicans and 63 Democrats. That compares with 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats who voted “no” on Monday.
Dozens of Republican and Democratic members who had voted “no” on Monday voted “yes” after a week that saw uncertainty about the economy heighten as the Senate passed a version of Paulson’s plan that had been “sweetened” to attract more House support. Among the switchers were prominent Democrats — many of them progressives — such as John Lewis of Georgia, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, Betty Sutton of Ohio, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Bruce Braley of Iowa, John Yarmuth of Kentucky, Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, Donna Edwards, of Maryland, Lynn Woolsey of California and Hilda Solis of California.
Illinois’ Jesse Jackson Jr.’s staff said he switched from “no” to “yes” after the congressman, a leading backer of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, had “received assurances from (Obama) that, if elected, his administration will aggressively use authority in the bill to prevent foreclosures and stabilize the housing market.”
While the bill backers tried to point to silver linings, however, even Paulson’s most prominent ally on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged that the bailout bill was flawed.
“We were dealt a bad hand; we made the most of it,” House Speaker Pelosi admitted after Friday’s mid-day vote.
It was for that reason that many leading members of the skeptic’s caucus — a coalition of generally progressive Democrats and generally libertarian-leaning conservative Republicans, along with some embattled incumbents who did not want to cast an unpopular vote — held firm in their opposition.
Leading the charge, as on Monday, was Ohio Democrat Marcy Kaptur, who objected to the end on Friday that Paulson’s plan was being rushed through Congress without proper deliberation.
“Only one committee was involved,” complained Kaptur in a fiery final floor speech. “This bill is just an end run around the American people three weeks before the election while this Congress is skittish.”
Aware that her side was unlikely to prevail in the face of a massive media and lobbying push to get the bill passed before the weekend, Kaptur closed by saying: “Pray for our Republic. She’s being placed in uncaring and very greedy hands.”