Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Published September 30, 2008

Many vulnerable lawmakers said 'no' to bailout

Two-thirds of Congress' most vulnerable members - Republicans and Democrats alike - chose to protect their seats on Election Day rather than follow their party leaders and vote for an unpopular economic bailout plan.

Their votes helped doom the plan President Bush, congressional leaders and top economic officials said was critical. Shaken investors sent the Dow Jones industrials plunging 778 points, the most ever for a single day.

The pressures those lawmakers faced was summed up by Rep. Don Young of Alaska, an 18-term lawmaker and the state's only representative in the House. Currently under an ethics cloud, Young voted no mostly because an overwhelming majority of the constituents who called his office were against the bailout.

Such a massive government takeover, he said, was a step toward socialism and a philosophical leap he could not make.

"Alaskans have asked me to do what I did," he said. "We are a reflection of the people, and we always have been."

Like Young, lawmakers who had the most to lose risked the least on Monday.

"We're all worried about losing our jobs," Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said, endorsing the bill and voting for it after leading a rebellion against an earlier version last week. "Most of us say, 'I want this thing to pass, but I want you to vote for it, not me,'" he said, speaking for colleagues who have tougher re-election fights than his own.

The 228-205 rejection of the $700 billion rescue package for the financial markets reflected the every-man-for-himself posture of lawmakers with no plan to prop up the economy five short weeks from the election. Of the 19 most vulnerable House lawmakers tracked by The Associated Press, 13 of them voted against the bill despite pleas from their party leaders to pass it.

Many of them said they could not vote for a bill that would allow some executives of the failed companies to be paid many times what their cash-strapped constituents could ever hope to earn.

Among the "no" voters was Rep. Nick Lampson of Texas, widely considered the most vulnerable incumbent Democrat from a heavily Republican Houston-area district. He reflected on his constituents hit hard earlier this month by Hurricane Ike, saying in a telephone interview that calls to his office ran at least 15-1 against the package.

"Think of all the people who have lost houses. If they lost a $100,000 house, the most the government can give is $28,100," Lampson said.

Contrast that, he suggested, with the $500,000 limit on compensation packages for executives of the failed companies that would participate in the bailout. "I thought it was a $700 billion boondoggle that I thought had a huge, dramatic impact on our citizenry."

Of the 11 most-endangered Republican incumbents, eight voted no: Young of Alaska, Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, Tim Walberg of Michigan, Joe Knollenberg of Michigan, Sam Graves of Missouri, Robin Hayes of North Carolina, Steve Chabot of Ohio and Dave Reichert of Washington.

The three vulnerable Republicans who voted "yes" were Reps. Christopher Shays of Connecticut, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Jon Porter of Nevada.

Of the eight most-endangered Democrats, five voted against the bill: Reps. Nancy Boyda of Kansas, Don Cazayoux of Louisiana, Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire, Chris Carney of Pennsylvania and Lampson.

The three vulnerable Democrats voting "yes" were Tim Mahoney of Florida, Paul E. Kanjorski of Pennsylvania and Jerry McNerney of California.

Some of those who voted for the bailout said they did so in possible conflict with the districts they represent.

McNerney, a wind engineer and political neophyte before his election to Congress in 2006, said his district opposed the bailout but he felt it was best for the economy.

"People's jobs are a great deal dependent on this," he said, as well as "their home loans and all of their livelihood."

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