ARI SHAPIRO, host:
It's Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne. The big question this morning now that the Senate has approved a $700 billion financial rescue plan is whether the House will follow suit. It's expected to vote again tomorrow on a revised version of the bill that House members voted down on Monday. One lawmaker who's in the thick of working to get a bailout package approved is Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank. He's chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and joins us now on the line. Congressman, welcome.
Representative BARNEY FRANK (Democrat, Massachusetts; Chairman, House Financial Services Committee): Good morning.
MONTAGNE: As you know very well, a lot of Americans have been angry about this entire bill. What in particular has this revised bill got in it that would make it more palatable to the representatives of those people?
Representative FRANK: Well, first I have to say that people should be angry. But they shouldn't be angry about our need to deal with the consequences. They ought to be angry at what brought us to this point, that is a lack of sensible regulation brought about by a very rigid conservative philosophy that allowed the private sector to make the kind of mistakes that put us in peril. So, yeah, this is an unpleasant thing, but it's unpleasant because it's responding to very bad decisions. Now, what's going to change some votes I believe is not so much what's been added to the bill as what happened in the economy on Tuesday and Wednesday.
There were many members who I think were kind of voting against the bill because it was unpopular, but were hoping it would pass, and then were hoping, well, if it didn't pass, the negative consequences won't be too bad. In fact, it is now clear that the absence of a bill hurts a lot of average Americans, not rich people on Wall Street who still have all their money. There is in the bill something that many people did want to see in it. And that's an increase in deposit insurance for individuals, which will help the smaller banks. And for some people that'll be a reason to change their vote. For other people, it will give them a reason to explain why they changed their vote.
MONTAGNE: Now, what you've just mentioned, a doubling of the insurance for - more than doubling - for bank deposits. There are other add-ons. Tax cuts for small businesses. Various things that do raise the price tag a lot. By some estimates, 150 billion in tax cuts alone. What about that?
Representative FRANK: The tax reductions themselves are actually mostly the continuation of tax incentives that are good things, for research and development for alternative energy. The problem is that the people who care most about the deficit are a group of moderate Democrats called the Blue Dogs. And they have supported a package of tax incentives being extended, but with offsetting revenue. The Senate has done that without offsetting revenue. And that does anger many of those who are opposing the notion of more deficit. So while some people might vote for it because of that, there are others saying, well, wait a minute, I'm for reducing the deficit, and this makes it worse.
MONTAGNE: Well, you know, also this had been a great concern that this is a bipartisan effort, and Republicans, of course, voted in great numbers against this bill. Are you personally reaching out across the aisle to those Republicans with...
Representative FRANK: I'm not working on the Republicans so much. I am trying to reach some of my fellow liberals. And here's the point. We have this terrible foreclosure crisis that's really at the root of this whole crisis, the irresponsible lack of regulation that led to the proliferation of subprime loans and the consequences. We have in the bill - and did when it was in the House - very good language that will direct the secretary of the Treasury when he buys up mortgage revenue bonds to use a lot of leverage to reduce foreclosures, to write down mortgages. But it's written, I will confess, more obscurely and in a more oily way than it should have been. And I've been focusing on trying to explain to others who care about this, both the social and economic consequences, that the language is better than it looks. It's kind of like - I think it was Mark Twain that said that Wagner's music was better than it sounded. I've tried to explain that this bill, I think, is better than it looks in that regard.
MONTAGNE: The vote on Monday was a surprise to many of us out here...
Representative FRANK: It was a surprise to almost everybody.
MONTAGNE: So, what do you think? Is this new version going to pass?
Representative FRANK: It's likely to, but again I think the real change, the big change, is that on Tuesday and Wednesday we saw very negative economic consequences in the economy. By the way, not just in the stock market, it's the credit markets drying up, it's construction sites slowing down and shutting down, it's automobile sales at risk. So I think there will be members changing from no to yes because, one, they see the reality, and two, because on Monday this was a clear no if you were calculating politically, and that's become dicier now because people have seen the negative economic consequences. So I'm hopeful, but anybody who says he's certain about all this hasn't been paying attention.
MONTAGNE: Thanks very much for joining us.
Representative FRANK: OK.
MONTAGNE: Democrat Barney Frank is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
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