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Will The Bailout Bill Pass In The House This Time?


This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Good morning. The arm-twisting and vote-counting and button holing are nearly over. Today, the House of Representatives plans to take up the massive financial bailout package again. The House rejected it Monday. But now that the Senate approved a modified version, House leaders believe they have the votes to pass it this time. And that means some lawmakers face having John Kerry syndrome, voting against the bill before they vote for it. NPR's Brian Naylor spoke with some of those vote switchers.

BRIAN NAYLOR: It's not often that members of Congress vote one way on Monday and are then asked to change course come Friday. Congressional leaders usually work to protect their members from such awkward pirouettes, but today is different. The original bailout bill lost by 23 votes on Monday. Since then, the stock market has tumbled, gained ground and tumbled again. The credit markets have tightened some more. And some lawmakers, encouraged by their leaders, have had second thoughts about their no votes - like Missouri Democrat Emanuel Cleaver, who says he's worried about what he's been hearing since Monday.

Representative EMANUEL CLEAVER (Democrat, Missouri): I concluded that there are some very, very smart people who believe that the failure for Congress to act would result in a cataclysm. There are 800 bridges in the state of Missouri in need of repair or replacement, and the state right now is unable to get cheap financing that would enable them to do the project.

NAYLOR: Cleaver says Kansas City, which he led as mayor for eight years, can't get bonds sold for a water and sewer project, and he's worried about the Ford plant in town, too. Shelley Berkeley, a Democrat who represents Las Vegas, has heard similar concerns. Berkeley, one of the 95 Democrats who voted no on Monday, today plans to vote yes.

Representative SHELLEY BERKELEY (Democrat, Nevada): I heard from everyone from my gaming industry to my card dealers, builders, developers, restaurateurs, that they needed some relief, and it translated in a very meaningful way to me to the people that I represent.

NAYLOR: The bill approved by the Senate and before the House today differs from the original measure negotiated by congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. It's been sweetened, in the jargon of Congress. One of the sweeteners that helped changed Berkeley's mind is the package of tax cuts that the Senate attached. Among them is an extension of the tax credit for alternative energy sources like solar and wind, which are important to Nevada's burgeoning renewable-energy industry. Still, she says the rescue plan is a roll of the dice.

Rep. BERKELEY: I sure hope Mr. Paulson knows what he's doing because there's a lot riding on his good judgment.

NAYLOR: Zach Wamp of Tennessee was one of the 133 Republicans who voted no on Monday. Now he says he'll vote yes, changing his mind in part after the Senate more than doubled the level of bank deposits that the FDIC will ensure. Wamp says he's worried about the economic conditions in his district.

Representative ZACH WAMP (Republican, Tennessee): I'm from southeast Tennessee, where gasoline is not available right now. You got to go to seven stations to find gas. It happened to me this week. The anxiety level is through the roof.

NAYLOR: Wamp, like other members since Monday, has heard from banks and colleges in his district worried about the availability of college loans and credit for business in farms.

Rep. WAMP: Major institutions in East Tennessee called me this week and said, our pensions are at risk. If the market and the confidence continues to erode and there's no money available and businesses are laying people off, we're not going to be able to honor our pension obligations. Well, at some point you have to say the ox is in the ditch. Let's break the rules and get the ox out of the ditch or our country, which leads the world, will not be leading the world. And the rest of the world is calling, too.

NAYLOR: But, says Wamp, there will be little reward if the financial rescue plan wins approval today. He says half of the voters in his district are already mad at him from Monday's vote. And after today, the other half will be as well. Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brian Naylor
NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.