MADELEINE BRAND, host:
OK. Let's check in with Congress now and see what's happening on that bailout plan. Many members are off today for the Jewish holiday. Republican Congressman Christopher Shays from Connecticut stayed in Washington to work on revising the plan. He voted for it, even though his constituents, by 30 to one, urged him to vote against it. I asked Congressman Shays if he was afraid he'd be punished by voters this coming November.
Representative CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (Republican, Connecticut): You know, you don't think about that issue on what we call, "Legacy Votes". You might think about it on some less meaningful votes. But when your voting to go, you know, get Saddam out of Kuwait or go into Iraq to support the surge, those are huge votes. This is probably the biggest vote on one of the biggest votes I'll ever take. And so you just try to make the best vote you can and you live with the consequences.
BRAND: So if the consequences mean that you're out of a job, come November?
Rep. SHAYS: Well, I - you could say, I was out of a job and I won't have to worry about what happens afterwards. I mean, there's going to be some real heavy lifting to be done here. This is not the end, this is the beginning. And I gave somewhat of a facetious answer, but the bottom line is you can only do the best you can do. And then if your constituents decide someone can do better or they've had enough of you, you know, you just respect that process.
But you can't vote on something so significant based on just popular will. You just can't do that. And frankly, popular will could change very quickly. I mean. There is a silent majority that may support this bill. They sure are silent, but they may support it.
BRAND: What do you think you can do in the next few days to convince...
Rep. SHAYS: I know what I'm doing. I'm trying to understand how I can be helpful to the White House and to the congressional leaders to get this done. I've been here 21 years, and I'm on both the Government Oversight Committee and the Financial Service Committee. I know the people who have voted no and I know why. I know who's influencing them and I think it's very conceivable that we could see this bill passed in its present form with the administration doing something administratively to take care of their concerns.
For instance, what we call mark to market, the whole idea that we would continually "dummy down" our investment almost to the point of a fire sale is counterproductive. Now, I don't know if we totally repeal it, or if there's - somewhere in between - action you can take. But that would be very important. If there was a way to deal with the Federal Deposit Insurance and increase it, like, I think both candidates say it should be increased for president(unintelligible) . That could be enough to get some members on board.
But any member who votes for this bill has to recognize that by voting for it, we're not going to get a pat on the back. The public may not see the kind of benefits that we believe is there. In other words, voting for this bill, things may still get worse, but they won't get as bad.
BRAND: Congressman, what do you say to people who are really, really angry. People out there who are very, very angry that they think that this is a bailout to Wall Street, and that Main Street is not getting much of anything from it. And that you maybe - maybe there are some ideas such as forgiving some owners debt to homeowners out there. Or rewriting mortgages or things like that, that could really go straight to the American public.
Rep. SHAYS: We've already addressed some of that issue if we can get the liquidity back into the market place. The bottom line is this, this is about Main Street. It is not about Wall Street. And as much as some of my constituents may want to see Wall Street take a big hit, they will take even a bigger hit, the Main Street. You know, these wealthy folks know how to protect themselves even with the dumb decisions they make. But we're talking about jobs, we're talking about savings, we're talking about businesses having the money they need to stock their shelves. So, we are talking about Main Street, and we've got to do a better job of making that point. And that's certainly why I'm supporting the bill.
BRAND: Republican Congressman from Connecticut, Christopher Shays. Thank you very much, Congressman.
Rep. SHAYS: Thank you, Madeleine.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.