Rep. Van Hollen: Contagion Will Spread To Main St. Congressman Chris Van Hollen, a member of the House Democratic leadership, blames Republicans for not getting enough votes to pass the Wall Street bailout measure. He says even though nobody liked everything, Democrats were able to deliver two-thirds of the votes. Van Hollen says if something isn't done soon, the crisis on Wall Street will spread to Main Street.
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Rep. Van Hollen: Contagion Will Spread To Main St.

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Rep. Van Hollen: Contagion Will Spread To Main St.

Rep. Van Hollen: Contagion Will Spread To Main St.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep. Next, we're going to hear from two of the lawmakers, who voted on the financial bailout in the House yesterday. In a moment, we'll hear from one of the Republicans who voted no. There were Republicans as well as Democrats who resisted this proposal. We begin with Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. He's one of the Democrats who led the effort yesterday to pass the bailout. And he's on the line. Congressman, welcome to the program.

Representative CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (Democrat, Maryland): Good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Some people are asking why you brought the bill to the floor if you didn't have the votes to pass it.

Rep. VAN HOLLEN: Well, we thought we did have the votes to pass it. This was the result of a bipartisan compromised negotiations between the House and Senate, Democratic and Republican leaderships and the White House. This was a compromised proposal. Nobody liked everything that was in it. A lot of people felt things should be in it that got left out. As a result, the Democratic leadership told the Republicans 'you've got to make sure you get your share of votes because we can't get all the votes we can on our side because there were things that got left out. ..TEXT: INSKEEP: Was there also a matter of election politics on both sides here that nobody wanted to be left alone holding the bag on this package that so many people don't like?

Rep. VAN HOLLEN: No that was not it. What happened was there were a lot of elements in this package that Democrats would have liked to see in it. For example, bankruptcy protections for someone's primary residence, a job stimulus part of it, tighter protections for taxpayers. Those things got left out. When those got left out, we told the Republicans they've got to get their share of the votes and they say that they would. And what happened was when they went to the floor of the House and the votes went on the board, two-thirds of the Democrats supported the bill and only one - just about one-third of the Republicans supported the bill and the bill failed. ..TEXT: INSKEEP: Congressman Van Hollen, as you know, John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House has his own explanation for why so few of his members voted yes. And let's take a listen to some of that explanation. I got some tape here.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio; House Majority Leader): We got about a dozen members, so we thought that we could bring along on the floor. They were in play, not committed to vote for it. But after what I thought was rather a partisan speech given the nature of this bill and how we've worked in a bipartisan way, it really killed our chances to get any of those dozen members to actually come our way and vote for the bill. It just didn't need to happen. I know we're five weeks from an election, but we could have waited until this bill passed to begin firing partisan shots. ..TEXT: INSKEEP: Congressman Chris Van Hollen, as you know, Boehner is referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's speech on the floor of the House where she referred to this as a judgment on the failures of the Bush administration and so forth.

Rep. VAN HOLLEN: Sure. Well, that's nonsense and since John Boehner made that statement, a lot of his own Republican members have said that's nonsense because in order to believe that, you have to believe that there were Republican members who thought the right thing to do for the country and for their community was to vote yes. And because they got a little upset and had their feelings hurt by something Nancy Pelosi said, they decided to punish the country and punish their constituents on a vote of huge national consequence. And we have said to John Boehner find us those 12 Republicans who said they switched their vote because Nancy Pelosi said that we're in this economic crisis as a result of George Bush's economic policies and the fact that they decided to take the referee off the regulatory playing field and not watch what was happening on Wall Street. That is a matter that most Americans agree with. And for them to say that they didn't deliver their portion of the votes because Nancy Pelosi said we're in this crisis as a result of neglect on the part of Bush, White House and their policies is really asking voters to stretch their imagination. I...

INSKEEP: Now, I have to - Congressman, we're going to hear from one of those Republican members in just a moment and get his explanation for why he voted the way he did and a way forward. But we just have a few seconds with you and I want to ask you, Congressman. What is the way forward and can you imagine a way that you'd find a few more votes on your side?

Rep. VAN HOLLEN: Well, the way forward is try to pick up the pieces very quickly and put together a package that can get a majority vote in the House of Representative. The speaker picked up the phone right after the vote to talk to Secretary Paulson. We're going to try and put together a package and get working with the Senate, working with the White House, working on a bipartisan manner to get things done because as much as nobody likes a lot of what's in this bill and certainly, there's a lot not to like in it. The fact of the matter is the costs of doing nothing are much greater because the contagion on Wall Street and the credit freeze will spread to Main Street. It will hurt hundreds and thousands of small business and that means they won't make payroll. That means even more Americans are out of work in an economy where already 600,000 jobs have been lost…

INSKEEP: Congressman.

Rep. VAN HOLLEN: Since January, so we got to come together with a package so that can get a majority vote.

INSKEEP: Congressman Chris Van Hollen, a member of the House Democratic Leadership. Thank you very much.

Rep. VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

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