Passage Uncertain For Wall Street Bailout Bill The House of Representatives is expected to vote Monday on a $700 billion rescue plan for the nation's financial system. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it isn't a bailout of Wall Street but a "buy-in" to help turn the economy around. It's not clear whether the bipartisan legislation has the needed votes to pass.
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NPR's David Welna reports on the bailout legislation on 'Morning Edition'

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Passage Uncertain For Wall Street Bailout Bill

NPR's David Welna reports on the bailout legislation on 'Morning Edition'

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It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning, I am Steve Inskeep. Lawmakers who vote on the financial bailout have to think about two things. One is the constant churning of the financial markets. The other is the constant churning of the fall campaign. It is not certain the House will pass the bailout which was renegotiated over the weekend. Members from both parties have been hearing how much their constituents hate it. They are worried that avoiding a financial disaster or could cost them an election disaster for them at the polls. NPR's David Welna has details.

DAVID WELNA: Both John McCain and Barack Obama threw their support to the $700 billion bailout bill that negotiators from both parties finally agreed on yesterday. President Bush does too. Without it, he said in a statement last night, the cost to the American economy could be disastrous. And so do all the leaders from both parties in Congress. The problem is the American public is largely leery of buying up a mountain of bad debt. House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank tried, this morning, to rally support for the bill on the House floor.

Representative BARNEY FRANK (Democrat, Massachusetts): If we repudiate George Bush's secretary of the Treasury and chairman of the Federal Reserve, joined as they were by previous secretaries of the Treasury, if we repudiate them and say nah, calm down, we'll get over it, I believe the consequences will be severe.

WELNA: Both Democrats and Republicans say the 10-page bailout bill they're voting on today has many safeguards for taxpayers than the three-page bill the Bush administration sent Congress nine days ago. The new bill adds oversight, limits executive compensation, calls for a taxpayer share in profits by firms that benefit from the bailout, and it also has an insurance program for mortgage-backed securities that House Republicans insisted on. Florida's Adam Putnam, House Republican leader told colleagues today, they are standing on the brink of a possible financial collapse.

Representative ADAM PUTNAM (Republican, Florida): So it's important that the taxpayers understand that because the Congress has moved forward on this issue, it will be a smaller tab for the taxpayer. But it will an effective intervention to restore the confidence necessary to avoid the kind of panic that we haven't seen in generations in this country.

But other House Republicans continue to balk at the bail-out deal. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said that passing it would put the U.S. on what he called the slippery slope to socialism.

Representative JEB HENSARLING (Republican, Texas): I will vote no on this legislation. I fear this legislation before us is fraught with unintended consequences. I fear, I fear that ultimately it may not work. I fear that it is too much bailout and not enough workout.

WELNA: Another Texas Republican, Michael Burgess, warned that members of his party were being asked to backed the bailout so it would not be just Democrats voting for it.

Representative MICHAEL BURGESS (Republican, Texas): We are going to asked to vote for a bill for political cover because Democrats are too weak to stand up to their speaker.

WELNA: But as many as half the House Republicans' votes for the bill maybe needed. That's because many Democrats also oppose the bailout including Oregon's Peter DeFazio.

Representative PETER DEFAZIO (Democrat, Oregon): Despite the best efforts of the Democrats to change this plan what we will vote on tomorrow at its core is still the Paulson-Bush plan.

WELNA: But others including the lead negotiator for Senate Republicans, New Hampshire's Judd Gregg warned there was no alternative to passing the bailout bill.

Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): The downside of not doing this is potentially such a catastrophe for our nation that we don't even want to think about it. We have to think about it, but I wouldn't even want to say where it would end.

WELNA: All this has left House Democrat Jerrold Nadler whose district includes Wall Street in a quandary.

Representative JERROLD NADLER (Democrat, New York): I'm conflicted at this way on how I am going to vote because on the one hand if you vote yes you're putting a large cost on the public for something that may or may not substantially help the severe risk to the economy. On the other hand, if you vote no then you're taking off the table the only option we have.

WELNA: And first-term Kansas House Democrat Nancy Boyda who faces a stiff re-election challenge, says she has yet to make up her mind how to vote on the bailout.

Representative NANCY BOYDA (Democrat, Kansas): It's damned if you do, damned if you don't. But I knew that when I took the job. I knew that when I applied for the job. So mother said there'd be days like this, and she was right.

WELNA: If the bill does pass the House, action by the Senate is expected by mid-week. David Welna, NPR News, the Capital.

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