FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

So why did some members of Congress choose to vote for the bailout bill and some against it. We've got two prominent members of Congress who made up their own minds and made different choices. A little bit later, we're going to talk to Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas who voted against. But first we have Representative Maxine Waters of California, who voted for. How are you?

Representative MAXINE WATERS (Democrat, California): Hello. How are you doing today?

CHIDEYA: I'm doing great. So you voted for this bailout bill, why?

Rep. WATERS: This is a rescue effort that has caught everybody by surprise. The fact of the matter is not only do we have to be concerned about our financial institutions and the market, we've got to be concerned about trying to do something to stem the tide of foreclosures and keep people in their homes. And part of this bill had in it a modification plan. We're going to acquire, that is buy up all of these toxic paper, or bad paper from these financial institutions. We then have an opportunity to do the kind of modification that we've been urging all along.

In addition to that, we have small businesses that are at risk. These small businesses that depend on banks for loans to make the payroll will literally go out of business. And we have the smaller minority bank, many of them who had their money invested in Fannie and Freddie when it was taken over, and they've lost all of their investment in that preferred stock. So we're trying to stem the tide of this devastation, to get the market stabilized and to protect the average citizens.

So I know that when you talk about $700 billion for Wall Street, it really unnerves people. They don't want to see the big boys be bailed out by the government. Many don't understand the connection to the average person and to their communities yet, but eventually they will. The market responded in a very negative way yesterday, over 700 points down, and I don't know where it's going to go. But if it continues, we will have a disaster on our hands for real.

CHIDEYA: Do you get calls? You're someone who's obviously well-known locally and nationally. Do you get calls at your office from people saying absolutely don't do this or absolutely do this? What are your constituents saying to you?

Rep. WATERS: It's a mixed bag. Most of the calls are vote 'no,' from all different parts of the district and we're taking those call, recording those call and we're asking people to listen to the debate and the information in the news and I call them back and I talk to them separately. And many people say 'Oh, I didn't understand' or some people who feel that they don't have to be worried about a 401(k) plan, they don't have a retirement plan, they don't have any money in stocks, they're not in danger of foreclosure. They still won't support the idea that we should spend any money on this effort. But most people who have money and a 401(k) plan or a pension plan do begin to understand rather quickly. ..TEXT: CHIDEYA: Like many politicians, real estate industry is a part of your donations base. Does that influence how you vote?

Rep. WATERS: No, I serve on the Financial Services Committee, and I am the chair of the Subcommittee on a Housing and Community Opportunity. I get very little in the way of campaign contributions. I don't take money from the big banks. I do take money from like Credit Union and from some of the real estate industry but not money from the financial sector at all. I don't accept those contributions.

CHIDEYA: What do you think lies ahead for your colleagues and you? I mean Thursday is being touted as another day that is going to be incredibly important in terms of decision-making. But do you think that Congress is going to be able to pull it together?

Rep. WATERS: Oh yes. There will be a bill, and it will probably be pretty much the same as this bill. There may be a few minor changes or alterations to it, but there will be a bill that will be passed, and I think even some of the no vote are surprised at the response on Wall Street and the market and what took place. I think we're going to continue to get information about the international impact of our meltdown here. And I do think that we'll have the vote on Thursday or Friday - whenever we vote. We may not necessarily vote on Thursday, we may just start the discussions, but I think by the weekend, we'll have a vote and we'll have a bill that will pass.

CHIDEYA: Give me just a quick hit on what you think the best case scenario is for your district - how a good bill could change things for people in your district.

Rep. WATERS: Well, I had in the bill a language for participation by minority and all business aspects of this rescue. For example there will be a lot of asset management which will include investment banking firms and accountants and lawyers and consultants, and I had a minority piece in there to make sure that there was diversity in the opportunity. I also had language in there to protect small and minority banks. And I also worked on the language for the loan modifications. So the bill as it is will help my district an awful lot.

CHIDEYA: All right, Congresswoman, thank you.

Rep. WATERS: You're welcome.

CHIDEYA: That was U.S Congresswoman Maxine Waters who represents California's 35th District, and just ahead on our Africa update call it the colonies revenge - a consortium of rich Nigerians bid to buy a British soccer team.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.