Vote Counting on Bailout Intensifies

Posted October 2, 2008 at 7:12pm

Updated: 9:35 p.m.

The votes may be in hand to pass a $700 billion bill to bail out the U.S. financial system, an official familiar with vote-counting efforts said late Thursday.

According to this source, 15 Republicans who opposed the measure Monday are now a “hard yes” in favor of it. Another five GOP Members who voted against the bill are also expected to support it on the House floor Friday, though the source said they are trying to be more circumspect until the bill hits the floor.

At least a small handful of Democrats are expected to join the GOP Members ready to change their votes.

The legislation failed Monday on a 228-205 vote.

Administration officials expressed guarded confidence throughout the day that they will win the vote Friday.

While Monday’s market dive after the bill’s defeat may have had some effect on Republicans, administration officials pointed to other things that some believe may have been even more of a factor in switching votes.

Several credited a new provision in the bill raising the amount the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. will insure bank accounts from $100,000 to $250,000.

Also effective in the eyes of administration officials has been a ginned up effort by the business community to deliver the message to Members that businesses in their districts are being harmed by an inability to get credit.

Another possible boon: the absence of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. “He’s been reeled back a lot,” one senior administration official said. This official noted that Paulson had his hands full with his role as steward of a trouble economy. But he acknowledged: “Paulson wasn’t particularly effective with Republicans.”

Several Members who voted against the $700 billion economic rescue package came out of the Democratic Caucus meeting Thursday still lukewarm on the bill but expressing a possible switch of their vote.

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said he hoped the bill would pass Friday but wavered on whether he would vote for the Senate version.

“I may get to the point where I can see myself voting for it,” he said. When pressed, he clarified: “Yes, if necessary.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who also voted against the bill Monday, said he was “batting a 333,” citing his support for an amendment in the Senate version that increases the maximum for FDIC insurance from $100,000 to $250,000.

But, he added, he was “really resentful” that the Senate added an amendment to extend tax breaks without offsets.

“I have to look above that. I have to look past what’s good for Bill Pascrell in running for office,” he said, later adding: “If the same bill Monday came up [Friday], I’d vote no. This is a different bill.”

The House Rules Committee tonight gave voice-vote approval — for the second time this week — to a closed rule on the rescue bill, rejecting floor consideration of amendments House leadership has said would complicate the bill’s passage.