WASHINGTON — Call it the Sunshine State revolt.
House members from across Florida rallied to help defeat the $700-billion Wall Street bailout bill on Monday, with most Republicans and one Democrat opposing the measure despite warnings of economic ruin.
Fourteen Florida members voted against the bill, which was 13 votes shy of passing, and 11 voted for it. Of the six House members from the Tampa Bay area, only Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow, the third-ranking Republican, voted for the bill — but as a member of the GOP leadership he was obligated to support the bipartisan compromise.
Putnam compared the financial crisis to a hurricane and said the bill before the House was far better than the one the Bush administration proposed last week, with restrictions on executive pay and other protections for taxpayers.
"One bank after another failing, rolling out of New York, rolling out of Brussels, out of London, out of these places that seem so foreign," Putnam said on the House floor. "You're watching this happen, so how could you as a member of Congress in seeing that roll across the countryside not do everything in your power to prevent it?"
His colleagues, however, didn't think this was the right route. Only two other Florida Republicans — Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville and Dave Weldon of Melbourne — voted for it. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, said he was irritated to learn that the administration and some congressional leaders knew of the prospect of trouble a year ago, yet failed to alert the rank and file.
"Now they come in at the last minute and want us to do exactly what they say," Young said in an interview. "It basically puts the same people back in charge of the new program that messed up the old program. …
"This is a Band-Aid approach so we could say we did something, and let it all hang out. But just doing something does not solve this problem."
Other Tampa Bay area members voting no were Republican Reps. Ginny Brown-Waite of Brooksville, Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor and Vern Buchanan of Sarasota, and Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, who has close ties to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The speaker had worked to pass the bill.
While Castor said she hoped the House could pass a bailout bill soon, she argued that the one before her Monday did too little to help homeowners.
"The Bush plan does not provide sufficient help to middle-class families in the housing squeeze or taxpayer protections," Castor said. "I assisted hundreds of Tampa Bay families at my foreclosure workshops this summer, and I understand the need for direct, immediate action. The Bush plan failed to provide such action."
Brown-Waite said homeowners who made good on their mortgage payments were being forced to float those who didn't, as well as bail out the banks that made bad loans in the first place.
"Make no mistake, a vote for this bailout is a vote to ratify business as usual in Washington," she said on the House floor.
Wes Allison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 463-0577.