Boosted by a change in the tone of the angry calls flooding their offices, enticed by added tax breaks or just scared by Monday’s calamitous stock market plunge, nearly five dozen lawmakers switched their votes Friday to pass a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street.
Just days after the House defeated the first version of the bailout, those who switched said the intervening time convinced them that action now on an imperfect bill mattered more than waiting to get just the right measure.
“Monday I cast a blue collar vote,” said Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee, one of 25 Republicans to switch from “No” to “Yes.” “Today I’m going to cast a red, white and blue collar vote with my hand over my heart.”
In addition to the Republicans, 33 Democrats also were against the bailout before they were for it. Their newfound support came despite the addition of $150 billion in tax breaks that weren’t entirely offset by spending cuts or other tax increases.
When it became clear the measure would pass, dozens of lawmakers on the floor began to applaud - though not everyone was prepared to accept the vote as the end of the saga.
Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, Ohio Republican, vowed vengeance on Republicans who helped block his amendment to cut the bailout to $250 billion, and to strip out some of the tax breaks.
He said he will work to embarrass the 20 Republicans who joined Democrats in a procedural vote that ensured he wouldn’t be able to offer his amendment. He said he will take as his inspiration Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain’s vow to make “famous” those lawmakers who include pork-barrel projects in spending bills.
“For those 20 Republicans, and those that aided and abetted them, we will make you famous,” Mr. LaTourette said. “Shame on you.”
But Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Democrats’ point man for the bill, said that list should include Mr. McCain, who voted for the bill in the Senate on Wednesday, and pushed his House colleagues to support it.
Mr. Frank worked hard to convince Democrats the bill was not as bad as portrayed Monday. He repeatedly held colloquys with lawmakers on the floor Thursday to answer questions and establish a legislative history of what Congress intended.
That helped sway those such as Rep. Donna F. Edwards, Maryland Democrat, who wanted to make sure the bill’s authors told the Treasury secretary to use some money to prevent foreclosures.
She and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, many of whom switched their votes, said talking with Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama helped convince them.
“I appreciate the personal commitment that Senator Obama made to me that we will work to provide direct relief to homeowners facing foreclosure by enabling home mortgages to be dealt with in the context of personal bankruptcy,” she said.
Mr. Frank had help from unlikely places. Those on both sides mentioned an influential appeal from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, who said his state was having a difficult time floating a short-term loan needed to help the state make its payroll.
Rep. Howard Coble, North Carolina Republican, said after Monday’s stock market calamity that phone calls to his office, which had been nine to one opposed, flipped.
The additional tax cuts, and the inclusion of a provision allowing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to raise the limit on bank customers’ insured deposits from $100,000 to $250,000, convinced many Republicans.
But one lawmaker, Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, flipped from support to opposition, blaming Senate Republicans for goofing up the bill.
“The other day I said I voted in favor of the House bailout bill because I trusted Democratic leaders who worked tirelessly to represent Main Street. I still do, but Senate Republicans changed all that,” he said in explaining his new vote.
And despite the newfound enthusiasm - 263 members, or 61 percent of the House voted for the bill - those in tough re-election battles were still more reluctant than their colleagues on the whole.
Only 15 of the 41 most endangered incumbents, or 37 percent, voted for the bill this time around. That’s up slightly from Monday, when the first bill garnered only nine from the endangered 41.
“The core of the bailout legislation remains unchanged and unacceptable. In fact, the grotesque waste of tax dollars to fund pet projects in an effort to garner support for a bad bill makes it worse,” said Rep. Nick Lampson, a Texas Democrat locked in a tight re-election battle in a Republican-leaning district.
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