Page last updated at 13:29 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 14:29 UK

Where votes went in the bail-out bill

Lawmakers in the US House of Representatives
The vote followed hours of fraught debate in the House

More Democrats than Republicans backed the Bush administration's financial bail-out bill on Monday.

Among the 205 "Ayes", there were 65 Republicans - or a third of the party's house membership - compared to 140 Democrats - three in five.

Among the 228 votes against were 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats.

Only one member, Illinois Republican Jerry Weller, did not vote.

Among the reasons given for sending the package's creators back to the drawing board were:

  • A lurking mistrust among members about the secretive way in which the bill had been cobbled together
  • A reluctance to come to the aid of wealthy bankers
  • Ideological objections to government intervention
  • The speed with which the house was expected to give the bill its backing

But the pivotal reason given by most of those who turned down the bill seems straightforward: they feared for their jobs.

Public hostility

There are 435 seats in the House of Representatives, all of which are up for election in November.

Of the 38 members whose seats are most at risk in November's election, only eight voted for the bill.

Among those not considered at risk in the election, the vote was even, suggesting public hostility killed the bill, says the BBC's North America editor Justin Webb.

A trader rubs his face as he works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, 29 September 2008

Before the vote, lawmakers were inundated with calls, emails and letters from constituents outraged by the $700bn package. Correspondence against the bill vastly outweighed that in favour.

Only those representatives unconcerned about their re-election prospects could confidently support the package.

It is no coincidence that 26 of the 31 members who are retiring in November - including 21 Republicans - voted "Yes".

In fact, only two of the 205 members who supported the bill (Connecticut Republican Christopher Shays and Nevada Republican Jon Porter) reportedly face difficult re-election prospects in November - the vast majority of those with tough electoral contests ahead were among the "Nays".

"We're all worried about losing our jobs," said Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, who voted for the bill.

"Most of us say, 'I want this thing to pass but I want you to vote for it, not me', he said."


Many members said the interests of their voters were simply more persuasive than the cajoling of their party leaders, presidential candidates and the president himself.

Texas Republican Joe Barton said he had received a call from President Bush, but had preferred to listen to his constituents.

Pelosi urges bipartisan approach

John Feehery, a former top Republican aide, explained why many Republican members did the same.

"When Congress' approval rating is so low, when the president is such a lame duck, and when your constituents are calling... you run," Mr Feehery told the Los Angeles Times.

Michigan Republican Thaddeus McCotter, who voted "No", blamed US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's failure to compromise for the vote's failure, and called for his resignation.

"The American public thought it was an unfair plan to retirees and taxpayers alike, and yet this administration of Secretary Paulson continued... to press, press, press, press."

Stunning result

As Monday's vote went ahead, senior figures from both parties huddled and horse-traded in the chamber as they attempted to cajole allies and opponents alike to get behind the bill.

US Capitol
Congress members are worried about forthcoming elections

But the pressure from each party's congressional leaders was not overpowering.

Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson said he was approached by the Democratic house speaker Nancy Pelosi about reversing his vote, but "there wasn't any arm-twisting".

Ohio congressman and house Republican leader John Boehner said he had tried in vain to convert reluctant voters.

"You can't break their arms, you can't put your whole relationship on the line with them and ask them to do something they do not want to do," he said.

Consequently, when the gavel came down after 40 minutes of voting, the result was a resounding "No".

Political recriminations swiftly followed. Republicans criticised a scathing speech by Mrs Pelosi about the Bush administration's economic policies for injecting partisanship into the issue.

Republican house leader John Boehner said the speaker's words "poisoned our conference", and put off a dozen potential bill-backers within his party.

The Democratic leadership countered that such accusations merely showed Republicans were effectively punishing the country because the speaker had hurt their feelings.

Democrats said the Republican leadership should have done more to promote the bill. In his floor speech before the vote, Mr Boehner had reportedly described the package as a "crap sandwich".

Frantic steps will now be taken to get some kind of amended version of the bill onto the table and discussed by Congress.

But for vote-conscious lawmakers, a fine line will have to be drawn between supporting the banks, and keeping the support of the voters.

Jeb Hensarling, a Republican who voted against the bill, said: "Clearly, it is important to get it done quickly. But it is more important to get it done correctly."

Glasgow Herald Dexia bank receives ¬6.4bn injection to keep it afloat - 4 hrs ago
Daily Telegraph Australia European stocks gain on bailout hopes - 7 hrs ago
New York Times Europe Moves to Calm the Ripple Effect of Banking Crisis - 7 hrs ago
The West Online US, Euro markets higher on bailout hopes - 7 hrs ago
Time World Markets React With Caution to US Crisis - 8 hrs ago

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