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."
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.
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."
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