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House Rejects Bailout Bill

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand. Another one falls. As we begin the week, we're dealing with another bank failure. Make that failures in the plural. In Europe, governments are stepping in to rescue banks in Britain, Germany, Belgium and Iceland.

Here, the FDIC brokered a deal to have Citigroup buy Wachovia. And we'll have details of that deal later in the show, as well as Wall Street reaction. Let's go now to Capitol Hill where lawmakers in the House are about to vote on that $700 billion bailout package. NPR's Brian Naylor is there. And what are you hearing today?

BRIAN NAYLOR: Well, Madeleine, this is one of those bills that nobody is really crazy about. But this is the agreement that was worked out over the weekend between the administration, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. So there were a lot of different parties at the table and this is what they came up with. It provides $700 billion to bail out the financial services industry.

So what you're hearing are the backers of the bill saying, you know, we may not like this, it's not the perfect solution, but there's no other choice. Barney Frank of Massachusetts is the House chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and he led off today's debate. Here's a little bit of what he said.

Representative BARNEY FRANK (Democrat, Massachusetts; Chairman, House Financial Services Committee): I wish it weren't the case, but I am convinced if we defeat this bill today, it will be a very bad day for the financial sector of the American economy. And the people who will feel the pain are not the top bankers and the top corporate executives, but average Americans. They don't see it yet. And pain averted is not a basis in which you get a lot of gratitude.

NAYLOR: So, while the proponents of the bill say there's not much choice. The opponents say, well that doesn't mean we still have to approve this, you know. Maybe it's better off that we don't approve anything than pass a failed plan. This is Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia, he's a Republican.

Representative PAUL BROUN (Republican, Georgia): This is a huge cow patty with a piece of marshmallow stuck in the middle of it. And I'm not going to eat that cow patty. I've encouraged all of my members of my conference and your conference to vote against this bill, so we can find something that makes sense.

NAYLOR: Pretty colorful debate for a bill about Wall Street and financial arcania. But I think that's the way a lot of members feel here. This is really distasteful.

BRAND: Well, is that possible, Brian, that they will actually hold up this bill and it won't pass?

NAYLOR: Well, we'll find out a little bit later today. I think it's going to be a close vote. But I think that members want to be seen as doing the responsible thing. I mean, the big problem, Madeleine, is not only is there - is this a roll of the dice, nobody really knows whether it's going to work or not, but you've got an election just over a month away.

And all of these members of the House are up for reelection, those that are staying. And they're being - they're afraid that they are going to get tied to this by their opponents, a very unpopular program amongst many voters, this $700 billion bailout.

And so, you're seeing a lot of dancing going on. So people are weighing a whole lot of things. They're weighing political considerations, they're weighing their responsibility as leaders and it's a great - it's a big unknown.

BRAND: NPR congressional correspondent Brian Naylor watching the votes today on that $700 billion bailout package. Thanks, Brian.

NAYLOR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. 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.

Madeleine Brand
Madeleine Brand is the host of NPR’s newest and fastest-growing daily show, Day to Day. She conducts interviews with newsmakers (Iraqi politicians, US senators), entertainment figures (Bernardo Bertolluci, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Gervais), and the everyday people affected by the news (an autoworker laid off at GM, a mother whose son was killed in Iraq).
NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.