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House Passes Financial Bailout Bill

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California, Speaker of the House): On this vote, the yeas are 263, the nays are 171. The motion is adopted.

SIEGEL: What a difference four days make, not to mention a few hundred points of the Dow and 160,000 new jobless claims, that's from today's unemployment figures. The Treasury's financial rescue plan, sweetened with tax provisions tacked on by the Senate, passed the house this afternoon and it was quickly signed into law. A majority of Democrats voted for it, a majority of Republicans voted against it, and enough members changed their votes to reverse Monday's rejection of the plan. Why did they switch? Well, here's what some of them said on the House floor today. Howard Coble, Republican of North Carolina, said his constituents switched.

Representative HOWARD COBLE (Republican, North Carolina): My telephone calls and emails were overwhelming in opposition against the bill. On Monday, I voted no. The telephone calls and emails continued to be overwhelming, but guess what? Then, in favor of the bill.

SIEGEL: South Carolina Republican Gresham Barrett said today's bill was a better bill and whatever its flaws, something had to be done.

Representative GRESHAM BARRETT (Republican, South Carolina): No matter what we do or what we pass, there are still tough times out there. People are hurting, people are mad. I'm mad. Do I still have concerns about this bill? Yeah. Do I still have concerns that it will affect the free market system? Yes, I do. But we have to act and we have to act now.

SIEGEL: Among the Democrats who were swayed to support the bill was Barbara Lee of California who said she was speaking both for herself and also for Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. . Representative BARBARA LEE (Democrat, California): It's a very difficult vote for both us, but I must do everything that I can to stop this bleeding in the lives of people living from paycheck to paycheck, that is, if they have a paycheck. I'm really confident that this is the right vote, but I know that it's not the popular vote.

SIEGEL: And still there were those on both sides of the aisle who, in spite of the sweeteners or, perhaps because of the sweeteners, still voted no. Here's Ohio Republican Steve LaTourette.

Representative STEVE LATOURETTE (Republican, Ohio): This bill left the House and it went over to the Senate and they larded it up $192 million for rum. I guess we got the pirate vote in November.

SIEGEL: And there was Democrat Brad Sherman of California.

Representative BRAD SHERMAN (Democrat, California): It's not the economic recovery package. It's the pork-laden, earmark-laden Wall Street bailout bill.

SIEGEL: Even though both detractors and supporters alike cited the shortcomings of the bill, there were enough nose-holding, reluctant members on board to pass it. Thirty-two more Democrats voted for it today than on Monday. Twenty-six more Republicans voted yes and that was good news for House Republican Leader John Boehner, although he was cautious about what this bill can actually do.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (House Majority Leader; Republican, Ohio): Even if we pass this bill today, let's not kid ourselves. We're in the midst of a recession. It's going to be a rough ride, but it would be a whole lot rougher ride if we don't pass this bill. But I will say to all of you, when this bill passes today, remember those words, In God We Trust, because we're going to need his help.

SIEGEL: And when Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave the final speech in today's debate, she invoked the theme of the week. This bill was not for Wall Street bankers, but for Americans everywhere.

Rep. PELOSI: This is a vote with real consequences. It's an important vote. It's a difficult vote, but it's a vote that we must win for the American people. We must win it for Mr. and Mrs. Jones on Main Street.

SIEGEL: Not for the Dow Jones on Wall Street. In fact, that index told a cautionary tale today about bills in Congress and bulls and bears on the stock market. It was up about 300 points when the house started voting, and then for whatever reasons, it dropped by just about 300 points. It closed down 150 points or so for the day. President Bush promptly signed the bailout bill into law. It may be his administration's most dramatic domestic initiative, and yet it goes against much of what he stands for.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I know some Americans have concerns about this legislation, especially about the government's role and the bill's cost. As a strong supporter of free enterprise, I believe government intervention should occur only when necessary. In this situation, action is clearly necessary.

SIEGEL: The president speaking today as he signed the new legislation. 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.