Congressman Who Backed Bailout Aghast At Failure

Third-term Democrat Jim Marshall of Georgia cast his vote in favor of the bill, knowing his support for the measure could cost him his seat. Talking just before the House's rejection of the measure, Marshall was dumbfounded at the failure.

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While the voting was under way this afternoon, I spoke with Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall of Georgia. He had just voted yes on the bailout and as we began the interview, it seemed sure the measure would pass. That yes vote was a risky decision for Congressman Marshall. He faces a tough re-election, a Democrat running in a conservative district. I asked him why he supported the financial bailout despite strong opposition from home.

Representative JIM MARSHALL (Democrat, Georgia): I've been persuaded by all of the experts not that this is necessarily the right plan and not that it has in it all of the right features, but that it is necessary that we act in order to avoid incredible damage that could occur and probably not get a lot of credit for that because if the pain is never perceived, then people tend not to give you credit for having avoided it.

BLOCK: You said this is not politically easy for you, this vote today. That might be an understatement; you were quoted as saying in a private meeting with some of your colleagues, "I'm willing to give up my seat over this." Was that an accurate quote?

Rep. MARSHALL: That's an accurate quote. I was trying to persuade my colleagues to support this bill. The phone calls that people are receiving, I think, are understandably very angry. I was off-the-charts angry when I first heard about this, when I first saw the Treasury's proposal, and I can understand people being just livid. I don't want to help out one whit the irresponsible people who have dragged us into this, whether it's the borrowers or the lenders, or the investors, or the Wall Street crowd. I don't care who they are, I don't want to help them out. But this is something that's going to affect our overall economy and an awful lot of people that I represent in a very, very bad way. And so although it's very unpopular, I've got to take a different view and take my licks if that's what I get.

BLOCK: Congressman Marshall, when you think about this yes vote that you cast today on the bailout plan, how do you weigh the importance of that vote versus all the others you've cast in your six years in Congress?

Rep. MARSHALL: We have not faced an issue like this since I have been in Congress. In my prior life, among other things, I had a bit of expertise where credit transactions and the importance of credit in the economy is concerned. And this issue has the potential for having a much more dramatic impact upon the United States and our general future than any other vote I've taken since I've been in Congress. That's truly what's at stake here.

BLOCK: Congressman, we're talking to you just before 2 o' clock this afternoon, and I'm just being told that this bill has gone down to defeat in the House, and that the Dow is down 700 points as we speak.

(Soundbite of pause)

Rep. MARSHALL: Oh, my God. Well, we voted to adjourn subject to the call of the chair, and I trust that the speaker will be calling us back in session to see how this can be salvaged. I just hope that the damage that was predicted to be done if we weren't able to pass something does not occur, that the experts were wrong and that - see the kind of terrible problems that all the experts said we would see if we couldn't pass something.

BLOCK: Congressman Jim Marshall of Georgia, a Democrat of Georgia from a conservative district. Congressman Marshall, thanks very much.

Rep. MARSHALL: Sure. Thanks, Melissa.

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