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House Gets Another Turn At Passing Bailout Bill


This is Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.


Steve Inskeep is on assignment. I'm Ari Shapiro. The huge financial rescue package that died in the House on Monday was resurrected by the Senate last night. Barack Obama and John McCain were among the 74 senators who approved the bailout. Twenty-five voted against it. Now the bill goes back to the House. This time leaders from both parties are optimistic that it will pass. One reason, $110 billion in tax breaks that were added to the $700 billion package. NPR's David Welna has this report.

DAVID WELNA: As they do only on the most solemn of occasions, senators remained at their desks in the Senate chamber as they cast their votes on the bailout bill. The measure continues to draw protests from angry constituents even after the stock market plunged with the bill's defeat in the House and even as the flow of credit keeps getting tighter. Just before the vote, Majority Leader Harry Reid portrayed it as a decision requiring a profile in courage.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Senate Majority Leader): Some members in both chambers of Congress ask how they can explain a vote in favor of this legislation to the constituents. Here's how. Not with any sense of glee or satisfaction, but with a sense of confidence that when called upon to choose between what is easy and what is right, we rejected the easy and chose the right.

WELNA: It was what lawmakers call a legacy vote, one they'll likely be reminded of for better or worse for years to come. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell noted that it came at an especially difficult time.

Senator MITCH MCCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky; Senate Minority Leader): We clearly have demonstrated in the toughest possible situation, five weeks from an election, that we can come together and address a major crisis.

WELNA: It clearly helped that only 30 of the 99 members voting last night are up for re-election next month, compared to the entire House of Representatives. Support for the measure was close to even between the parties. Thirty-nine Democrats, 34 Republicans, and one independent voted for it. Nine Democrats, 15 Republicans, and one independent opposed it. Among those arguing for the financial rescue was the Republican who negotiated its terms, New Hampshire's Judd Gregg.

Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): And the hand we've been dealt is a pretty bad hand. And the options are really few. And our situation as a Congress is this. If we fail to act we will fail the nation. We will fail our constituents. We will fail the people on Main Street. And we will fail future generations.

WELNA: And while both Barack Obama and John McCain left the campaign trail to vote in favor of the bill, only Obama spoke on the Senate floor.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Democratic Presidential Nominee): We can't afford to take a risk that the economy of the United States of America, and as a consequence the worldwide economy, could be plunged into a very, very deep hole.

WELNA: But Alabama's Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Banking Committee voted against the bill. He took a dim view of the bipartisan calls for immediate action.

Senator RICHARD SHELBY (Republican, Alabama): Many around here are finding comfort in the notion that something is better than nothing. I believe that is a false choice. The choice we faced was between pursuing an informed response or panic, and I think we chose panic.

WELNA: After the vote, President Bush issued a statement urging the House to act swiftly as well. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he intended to bring the bill up for a vote on Friday, even though he and other Democrats don't like the fact that some of the tax breaks added to it are not paid for.

Representative STENY HOYER (Democrat, Maryland; House Majority Leader): We don't have time. The economy will not wait. The markets are skittish and fragile. And so, on a bipartisan fashion I may be upset, some others may be upset, but we need to get this done if we can get an agreement of the majority of the House of Representatives. Then we need to move it.

WELNA: Many House Democrats remain opposed to the bailout, and Hoyer said he'll need 100 House Republicans to vote for the bailout for it to pass. On Monday, only 65 of them voted that way. House Republican Leader John Boehner told FOX News he thinks there will be more yes votes from his caucus on Friday.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio; House Minority Leader): I think the package they're putting together has a much better chance than what we had on Monday.

WELNA: Boehner said both the stock market plunge and the added tax breaks have many GOP House members rethinking their opposition. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol. 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.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.