Left-Right Combo By Opponents Put Plan on the Ropes
By Stephen Power and Gary Fields
The defeat in Congress of a proposed $700 billion economic-rescue package followed an intense outpouring of voter anger, fanned by politicians, interest groups and media on the left and right, that overwhelmed calls from the president and top lawmakers to pass the deal.
Voters opposed to the deal deluged Capitol Hill with letters, emails, phone calls and faxes over the past week. Some 23,000 signatures were collected over two days by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, calling for a five-year, 10% surtax on the wealthiest Americans to help fund the bailout. Some prominent conservatives and bloggers criticized the deal as an unwarranted intervention in the free market.
[Fierce resistance from both ends of the political spectrum drove lawmakers to vote against the economic-rescue plan.] Getty Images
Fierce resistance from both ends of the political spectrum drove lawmakers to vote against the economic-rescue plan.
"The vast majority of my voters looked at this as a bailout for Wall Street," said Rep. Darrell Issa of California, one of the most outspoken Republican critics of the proposal.
On his Web site in recent days, Rep. Issa has posted letters and emails from some of the more than 2,000 constituents he said had contacted him about the proposal, including one from "Greg" in Temecula, Calif., who called the proposal "poorly thought out and rushed to the floor."
"I am 45 and a husband and father of 4. I am outraged and appalled at the arrogance of my President and the lack of regard for what is right," the message said.
Among prominent conservatives who publicly assailed the administration's proposal in recent days was former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But Mr. Gingrich said in a statement posted on his Web site Monday that he would "reluctantly and sadly" vote for the proposal if he were still in office.
"This bill is not the best proposal for solving the housing crisis. It is not even a good proposal for solving the crisis," the statement said. "However, it is the only proposal Secretary [Henry] Paulson would support, and his support was essential in this setting."
Mr. Gingrich then capped his tepid endorsement with a call for Mr. Paulson's resignation, saying that "having a former chairman of Goldman Sachs preside over disbursing hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street is a terrible concept and inevitably will lead to crony capitalism and the appearance of -- if not the actual existence of -- corruption."
The proposal's defeat was also cheered on by a number of blogs that in recent days have posted links to lawmakers' telephone and fax numbers and urged citizens to oppose the plan. They included stopthehousingbailout.com, a Web site organized by a 37-year-old Los Angeles attorney named Morgan Ward Doran, and globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com, run by Mike Shedlock, an investment adviser at SitkaPacific Capital Management. Mr. Shedlock said in an interview Monday that his site had received 1.7 million page hits this month, which he said was half a million more than normal.
On his Web site, Mr. Shedlock has derided the proposed rescue as "a rush to judgment" that would benefit "high-flying financiers who chased big profits through reckless investments," and as "a complete waste of $700 billion."
"A number of people emailed me to say this was the first time that they've written, faxed or phoned their member of Congress," said Mr. Shedlock, a 55-year-old resident of Prairie Grove, Ill. "We're going to phone and fax every member of Congress who voted against this to thank them. ... Everyone who voted to pass this bill, we're going to actively organize to oust them."
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus felt pressure from opposition to the package that was mounted by some prominent African-American radio personalities, who objected because it failed to address their listeners' everyday concerns, such as health-care costs. Among members of the caucus who voted against the deal were Democrats John Lewis of Georgia, John Conyers of Michigan and Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois.
Bev Smith, a nationally syndicated talk-show host on American Urban Radio Networks, said the Congressional Black Caucus members might have been influenced in part by a national campaign she organized, along with other radio hosts, calling for their audiences to contact members and voice their opposition to the plan.
When the bailout proposal was announced, she brought on economists and other financial experts to discuss the financial problems it ostensibly would solve. "Last week, I asked my audience to call their legislators and tell them if they vote for this without thorough investigation and without knowing the impact, we're going to kick their butts out of Washington, D.C. My audience flooded the Capitol Hill lines," she said.
The feelings were evident on blogs and Web posts. One contributor to blackamericaweb.com urged others to contact their representatives and senators by email and to "Tell them to vote NO on the bailout. This is the biggest robbery of the US in the history of this nation."
Left-Right Combo By Opponents Put Plan on the Ropes
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