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Bilirakis, Brown-Waite vote against retooled bailout plan

Despite a wave of converts and sweeteners, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis still couldn't swallow voting for the $700-billion economic bailout plan Friday.

Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, again voted against the bill as the U.S. House reversed itself and approved it.

In a written statement, Bilirakis said he wanted more "targeted" assistance for homeowners and better scrutiny of financial companies.

"I could not ask my constituents to pay for this corporate bailout because it fails to fundamentally address the problems that caused the current credit crisis," Bilirakis said, calling the bill "a rush to judgment."

Bilirakis, who represents coastal Pasco County, wasn't alone. U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, who represents Hernando County and the rest of Pasco, also voted against the bill (HR 1424) again.

"It still bails out foreign banks. It still raises the debt limit a trillion dollars," Brown-Waite said on the House floor on Friday. "That is what people believe is business as usual in Washington."

The House had defeated the measure Monday. But lawmakers remade the bill, adding tax breaks and other provisions to win over critics, leading to approval by the Senate and President Bush.

The Treasury Department will be able to buy $700-billion worth of troubled mortgage-related assets from finance companies in a bid to stop the hemorrhaging economy.

The extras included an extension of the law that allows residents of states without income taxes, such as Florida, to deduct a portion of the state sales tax from their federal income tax bills, as well as a fix to the tax code that will save millions of middle-class Americans from having to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax.

The Bush administration has contended that much of the money Congress allocates for the bailout will be repaid if it works. But Brown-Waite noted in an interview that "nowhere in there does it say that money will be used to pay down the debt."

While Brown-Waite said she supported extending the tax breaks, she said they should have come in separate bills. She also blasted the core of the legislation. She called the proposal "extortion" on Monday.

Democrat John Russell of Dade City, her opponent in the Nov. 4 election, also opposed the bill because he said it was flawed.

Russell has proposed stronger enforcement against fraud, greater government roles in finance companies that participate in the plan, and a fee on stock trades to offset the financial burden on taxpayers.

"She offers criticism and complaint but offers no solution," he said.

Times staff writer Wes Allison contributed to this report. David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6232.

Bilirakis, Brown-Waite vote against retooled bailout plan 10/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 6, 2008 1:22pm]
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