WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, is confident the House will successfully pass the $700 billion financial industry rescue plan on its second try, perhaps as early as today.
“We have no intention of failing again,” said Hoyer, who’s pushing for a House vote today. “That would have a very negative impact on the markets and the confidence of the markets. That’s really what’s at stake.”
The Senate placed the onus squarely on the House when it passed a modified version of the plan Wednesday night, two days after the House voted down the original.
Some senators acknowledged the bill was hastily put together, but said urgent action was necessary.
“This is not the bill that I would have written, but our economy is in dire straits and our time is limited,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said in a statement. “Inaction simply is not an option.”
The Senate bill passed 75-24. It modifies the House bill by providing $3.3 billion in aid for rural schools and increasing the ceiling for federally insured bank deposits from $100,000 to $250,000.
It also includes $100 billion in business and middle-class tax breaks.
Hoyer criticized the tax-break decision, but said he wants the “critically-needed” bill to pass regardless.
“I think that was an unwise move that the Senate made,” he said. “One that I urged them not to take.”
The House rejected the initial rescue plan on Monday, 228-205. The bill’s fate was not only sealed by the two-thirds of House Republicans who voted against it, but also by the one-third of House Democrats who did the same.
Disharmony was evident within Maryland’s eight-member delegation. Two of the six Democrats, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, and Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, voted against the bill, largely because they said it didn’t offer enough protection for troubled homeowners.
“I agree with their thought on that,” Hoyer said, adding the new Senate bill does not greatly increase protection, but does boost mortgage forbearance and renegotiation options.
Cummings and Edwards will review the bill before determining whether they’re satisfied with the changes, their spokesmen said.
“She’s reading it cover-to-cover,” said Dan Weber, Edwards’ communications director. “She’s undecided on her vote right now.
If the House seems skeptical of the rescue plan, the public appears even more so. According to a poll released Tuesday by Rasmussen Reports, 44 percent of Americans do not want Congress to pass any legislation helping the financial industry.
A common argument against a bailout is that it would benefit wealthy corporations at the expense of taxpayers, to whom it would offer little aid.
“Nobody in the Congress has any interest in bailing out Wall Street billionaires,” he said. “This is about Main Street.”
Wall Street’s struggles are far-reaching, Hoyer said, and Washington is concerned less with corporate bankruptcies and buyouts than with the financial stability of average Americans.
“If the continued failure of the financial industry is allowed to occur, average men and women will be hurt all over this country, their pension plans will be eroded, their ability to get credit will be eroded, the ability of their employers to stay in business will be put at risk,” Hoyer said. “There’s no assurance that this is going to work. What there is assurance is if we don’t act, the situation will get much worse.”