My representative in Congress is Michael R. McNulty, a Democrat. He is as close to a lame duck as anyone in Congress gets, having announced his retirement, but he remains a soldier of his party, concerned to get his primary-appointed successor, Paul Tonko, elected in his place over a Republican challenger. He joined the majority of New York State Democrats and the party's House leadership by voting for the bailout bill, which failed by a 225-208 vote. He did not comment during the debate and has not issued a statement to the media. I was unable to access his website minutes ago. It has since come on line, but without any comment on the bailout. He has told television that he intends to return to Washington to take care of unfinished business.
The district neighboring mine is represented by Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat who unseated a scandal-scarred Republican in the 2006 election. She voted against the bailout bill, and issued a statement insisting that her constituents should not have to pick up the bill for Wall Street's failings. She also demanded a "a comprehensive plan that will minimize the effects that this economic fallout will have on the middle class and taxpayers."
Without commenting on the merits of the bailout proposal itself, it ought to be considered on its own without adding extra details. The bill under consideration is intended to stabilize the nation's banking sector and restore credit streams for necessary business. Nothing that isn't directed toward that end should be added to the bill, but there ought to be a bill in preparation for Gillibrand's priorities. It would be interesting, in that case, to see who voted for one bill, and against the other.
Certain Republicans, in my opinion, made a major mistake by blaming Speaker Pelosi's "partisan" speech for the bill's defeat. They argued that more representatives on their side were prepared to support the bailout, but were offended by Pelosi's remarks blaming the crisis on Republican policies. Leaving aside the truth of the argument, these Republicans can't help but look petulant and petty -- not to mention "partisan." You would think from their outrage that Pelosi's speech was embedded in the language of the bailout bill. I suspect that some of the representatives now nursing wounded sensibilities were never going to support the bill, but were looking desperately for a way to spin it so that they were voting against Democrats, not against President Bush. Whatever the real motives, their words should be publicized to the utmost, as should Rep. Frank's words chastising the Republicans for voting on the basis of hurt feelings. We should also learn as soon as possible what is being promised to holdouts from both parties in order to get them to vote for the bailout next time, amended or not. But the first priority should still be stabilizing the stock market, unless you think that a complete crash is the only thing that will push people toward genuine and necessary political change.