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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida senators split on bailout



The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly, 74-25, to pass the $700-billion bailout package late Wednesday.

Florida's senators went their own ways. Republican Mel Martinez voted for the bill, and Democrat Bill Nelson voted against it.

The story from our sister publication Congressional Quarterly is on the jump.

Bailout Bill Passes in Senate
By CQ Staff

The Senate easily passed its version of the financial rescue package Wednesday night, sending the measure to the House carrying tax legislation that some lawmakers will have to swallow hard to accept.

The tally was 74-25 in favor of the bill (HR 1424), which also includes popular language that would boost the federal insurance on bank deposits.

The legislation was supported by 34 Democrats and 39 Republicans. Presidential nominees Barack Obama, D-Ill., and John McCain, R-Ariz., voted for the bill.

The House is expected to debate the measure — which has White House support — no later than Friday.

Many senators — Democrats and Republicans alike — came to the floor Wednesday afternoon to explain why they essentially had no choice but to vote for the legislation, even though public antipathy already sank an earlier version in the House.

The $700-billion package, which would allow the Treasury to buy troubled securities, is not a direct handout to Wall Street, the bill’s supporters argued. The credit crisis is now affecting small businesses everywhere, they said.

“Nobody wants to be in this spot,” said Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “But if you don’t want to be in these spots, don’t run for office.”

Judd Gregg of New Hampshire — the top-ranking Republican on the Budget Committee and a negotiator of the bailout package — agreed that lawmakers had few options.

“If we fail to act, we will fail the nation,” he said.

The bailout’s core provisions are essentially unchanged from the version (HR 3997) defeated in the House by a vote of 205-228 on Sept. 29.

The Senate bill adds a provision that would expand, through 2009, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. protection for bank accounts. The bill would temporarily increase insurance coverage to $250,000 per account, up from $100,000. That is designed to help small businesses and community banks in particular.

In a bid to lure House Republicans who voted against the bailout earlier this week, the Senate also added its proposal (HR 6049) to extend expiring tax provisions. The tax measure would stop the alternative minimum tax from reaching into the pockets of millions more Americans; expand existing tax breaks for renewable energy, and renew the research and development credit for businesses.

House Republicans prefer the Senate version of the “extenders” measure, which is only partly offset with revenue raisers. House Democrats have been trying to pass extenders legislation with full offsets for all but disaster tax relief and the AMT patch.

One of the bill’s most vocal opponents, Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said the House should hold its ground on the measure, despite the changes.

“I think the House guys were heroes,” DeMint said, referring to conservatives who voted against the bill. “I’m still hoping that they won’t be so beaten down that they don’t stop this — because if they did stop it again, I think we’d get busy and come up with a free-market solution rather than a government solution.”

In a floor speech, Obama described what he said are the risks of not acting — and the potential for trouble ahead, regardless of what Congress does.

“Even if we get this in place, we could still have enormous problems and probably will have big problems in the economy over the next several months, and potentially longer,” Obama said.

McCain did not participate in the floor debate.

President Bush said the Senate made “vital improvements” to the legislation.

“With the improvements the Senate has made, I believe members of both parties in the House can support this legislation,” Bush said.


[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 8:52am]


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