WASHINGTON – Two Maryland members of Congress decided to give the financial bailout a second chance Friday, helping the House pass it on to President Bush who quickly signed it into law.
Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, and Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, joined 56 other House members in switching their votes to pass the bill 263 to 171 Friday. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, was the only Maryland member to vote against the retooled bill.
The Senate added $110 billion in tax and spending revisions — including tax breaks for the middle class and funds for disaster relief and rural schools — and legislation expanding mental health coverage in the insurance industry to the original bill.
The revised plan also mandates that the Securities and Exchange Commission ease the impact of mortgage-backed securities and increases the limit for federally insured bank deposits.
Cummings and Edwards said the bill still isn’t perfect, and it was a hard decision to vote for it, but they knew something had to be done to deal with the financial crisis.
“This has been one of the most difficult votes of my 12 years in the Congress, and I know that my colleague, Donna Edwards, has shared this dilemma with me,” Cummings said in a statement. “There is no doubt among any of my colleagues that we need to take action, and that we need to act quickly.”
Cummings’ urgency came from his desire to help the people who are losing large portions of their savings, he said.
“My stomach turns when I think about the men and women who have worked hard their entire lives who risk losing large portions of their savings if we do not act now,” Cummings said. “It literally makes me sick to think about these people waking up and finding that their portfolios have decreased by 30 percent.”
Edwards also had some hesitation about the bailout, but talked to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who also contacted Cummings and other representatives, and that helped change her mind.
“After speaking with Senator Barack Obama yesterday and with many of our retirees, workers, homeowners and small business owners, I am convinced today that even left with this imperfect product, the choice is this or nothing,” she said in a statement. “For me, doing nothing was never an option.”
The Senate passed the revisions Thursday 75 to 24, after the House struck down the original version Monday, 228 to 205.
Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville; Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville; Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville; John Sarbanes, D-Towson; and Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, all voted for the original and revised versions of the bill.
Bartlett voted against the bill for a second time, saying it still didn’t protect the taxpayers. While the bill had some good additions — such as expanding the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation limit from $100,000 to $250,000 — it was “far, far more bad than good,” he said.
A major flaw, Bartlett said, is the bill does not allow for a long-term solution.
“This is a huge, huge debt to pass on to our kids and our grandkids,” he said.
To help alleviate the problem, Bartlett introduced legislation of his own Monday. The Main Street Protection Act would have made unlimited funds available to support the FDIC, which he said would be a temporary fix until economists and real experts could create a lasting strategy. In the meantime, Bartlett said, people shouldn’t pull all of their money out of savings in a panic.
“I don’t know why we want to discourage people from saving their money,” Bartlett said. “I am very concerned that there could be a run on the banks that could bring the system down.”
And there wasn’t much the government needed to do to prevent that from happening, Bartlett said, but it failed by passing the bailout. He said would have liked to see a recovery plan include unlimited FDIC insurance, some insurance to stabilize the money market and transparency in the banks.
“I am not sure we needed to do any more than those three things.”
But Congress will continue to address the problem. Passing the bailout is not the end of the solution, Edwards said.
“Today’s vote is by no means the end of the story,” she said. “I and my colleagues are committed to taking aggressive action to solve this economic crisis not for Wall Street, but for hard-working, families in my district and across the country.”