House Majority Leader Hoyer today expressed confidence that the House will approve the $700 billion economic rescue package Friday, but warned that he needs to be "pretty confident" the bill will pass before he agrees to bring it to the floor. Hoyer said Democratic leaders continue to push members for support but were not "twisting arms and cracking heads." He placed the onus on the minority, saying: "We need a significantly greater number of Republicans. Frankly, the things that were added on, and the way they were added on, appeal to Republicans," especially the tax extenders package. But a spokesman for Minority Leader Boehner said both sides would need to come up additional votes to reverse Monday's defeat of an earlier version of the plan. "The Senate vote was encouraging, but we're going to need more Democrat and Republican votes to pass this bill tomorrow," the spokesman said.
President Bush joined House leaders in trying to sell the revised package. White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto said Bush has called about three dozen House members, mostly Republicans, in the last two days. Based on the response Bush has received, "We feel somewhat optimistic that the [rescue] bill has a good chance of passing," Fratto said. Vice President Cheney, White House Chief of Staff Bolten and Bush's lobbyists joined in the vote-hunting efforts.
House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank said he thought the inclusion of additional sweeteners would pick up votes. Those include provisions that would boost FDIC insurance from $100,000 to $250,000 per account and allow the SEC to suspend accounting rules that require companies to value assets at current prices, not their matured value. Insurance coverage on credit union accounts also would be raised. But he said a larger factor was the negative market reaction after Monday's vote, along with ramped-up business community efforts to show how the credit crunch is affecting businesses. "Politically, the good vote on Monday was 'no.' That's less clear now because people have heard from a number of people in the business community and people also may have seen harm that they have been skeptical of. That's really the major factor," Frank said.
House Democrats thought about rewriting the bill, but that bid faltered against opposition from Republicans. "I don't see any changes," Frank said. Hoyer shared the view, saying, "Changes are possible but I don't think probable because if you make changes you are going to slow this process down." Frank has met resistance from some fellow Democrats who contend the bailout does not do enough to help struggling homeowners, even though it includes provisions to help stem the tide of foreclosures. "Unless we address the needs of Main Street, the bailout legislation passed by the Senate will never be seen by the American people as anything except Congress pandering to Wall Street," said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash. He said this afternoon that he would try to amend the bailout bill to include an economic stimulus package that, among other things, would extend eligibility for unemployment benefits and provide more money for food stamps. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., announced he would switch his "no" vote to "yes" after hearing from businesses in his Kansas City district that were suffering under the credit crunch, his spokeswoman said.
This article appears in the October 4, 2008 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.