MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And now to one of the Democrats who voted no on that bailout bill, Congressman Peter DeFazio from Oregon. Welcome to the program, Congressman.
Representative PETER DEFAZIO (Democrat, Oregon): Thanks, Melissa.
BLOCK: You know, the leadership thought they had the votes to pass this bill going into the vote today. What happened out there?
Representative DEFAZIO: Well, they were stunned. I was stunned. I thought the fix was in. You know, they got a lot fewer Republican votes than they wanted and a substantial number of us on the Democratic side took them at their word earlier in the week, which is they weren't twisting arms, vote your conscience. And the conscience of a significant number of Democrats was, this wasn't the right thing to do.
BLOCK: About 40 percent, I think, of Democrats in the House voted no. If you had known that this bill would be defeated, would that have affected your vote? Did you vote no because you thought it might pass?
Representative DEFAZIO: Absolutely not. There are credible alternatives out there that haven't been tried that wouldn't involve $700 billion dollars taxpayer money. This all started with Henry "Hank'' Paulson, a Wall Street executive who's serving temporarily as secretary of the Treasury, trying to stampede the Congress, asking for $700 billion, no strings attached, waive all laws. Then the Democrats, instead of saying, we will send you our own proposal, said, well, we'll work with you. But he got basically what he wanted in the end, he got $700 billion with a few strings attached.
BLOCK: Congressman, there are 110 pages in this bill - there were many strings attached from both sides, from Republicans and Democrats.
Representative DEFAZIO: Well, I'd be happy to send you my 12 top reasons why to vote no. But, for instance, it was a fake pay-for, fake lease. It said five years from now, a president will propose to Congress a way to pay back the taxpayers. That's ridiculous. There could be a real fee on stock transactions that would pay for the cost of this bill. It did take away golden parachutes and then instead it gave execs camouflage parachutes, you know, loophole-ridden. The Republican insurance part was very dangerous and it still gave phenomenal clout - unprecedented clout to this Treasury secretary, an appointee of George Bush. And should we trust these people as far as we can throw them?
BLOCK: These officials are saying these are unprecedented times. They have looked into an abyss that they have never seen before, and that these times require drastic measures. You don't agree?
Representative DEFAZIO: Oh, I think there are some real problems out there, but let's take someone who has real experience like Mr. Isaac, who was appointed by Jimmy Carter and then reappointed by Ronald Reagan as head of the FDIC during the savings and loan crisis. He says there is a low-cost way to fix this problem, which hasn't been tried by this administration.
BLOCK: Congressman Defazio, the Republican leadership is blaming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for poisoning the debate before this vote today. They're saying that's why this bill went down. Do they have a point there at all? She made a speech before the debate that they say was way too partisan.
Representative DEFAZIO: Excuse me, it's like that is the most bizarre thing I've ever heard. I'm upset because the Democrats gave so much to the Republicans when they are in the minority in this case, and that's just astounding to me they would try and make that allegation. Plain and simple, John Boehner was not speaking for his Republican rank and file when he committed them to this deal. He couldn't control his own members, and he just went down the wrong path. Now he's trying to cover his fanny.
BLOCK: You obviously saw the effects on the market today with this bill going down to defeat. The Dow is down 700 points. I gather that there were members of the House that were shouting out the news of what was happening with the markets as this vote was taking place?
Representative DEFAZIO: There were - there was a couple of members running around panicked in the cloakroom trying to cut a deal, that five on each side should change their vote - which was an absurdity. How could anybody change their vote on something as important as this? And I hope everyone voted on whatever side they were on with tremendous conviction. But, you know, I told them to calm down a little bit. Markets go up, markets go down, you know, we can come back for the more reasonable proposal. You know, there is a credible group of economists out there who said this wouldn't work, and we would be $700 billion in the hole. The dollar would come down, energy prices would go up, and then what? So this was never, you know, a slam dunk, this will work kind of position, or I would have supported it if I believed that.
BLOCK: That's Congressman Pete DeFazio of Oregon, one of the 95 Democrats who voted no on the bailout bill today.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.