US Senate passes Economic Patriot Act 74-25

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The Senate has now passed the bailout bill Economic Patriot Act that the Bush Administration had a heavy hand in crafting. This bill, while better than nothing, is unlikely to alleviate for long the acute problems the financial markets are now suffering. Many ‘sweeteners’ were added to make it likely to pass the House on this second go ’round.

Here is what the NY Times had to say about the bill’s passing the Senate:

The Senate strongly endorsed the $700 billion economic bailout plan Wednesday, leaving backers optimistic that the easy approval, coupled with an array of popular additions, would lead to House acceptance by Friday and end the legislative uncertainty that has rocked the markets.

In stark contrast to the House rejection of the plan on Monday, a bipartisan coalition of senators — including both presidential candidates — showed no hesitation in backing a proposal that had drawn public scorn, though the outpouring eased somewhat after a market plunge following the House defeat. The Senate margin was 74 to 25 in favor of the White House initiative to buy troubled securities to ease a growing credit crunch.

The presence in the Senate of both presidential candidates in the final weeks of the campaign gave weight to the moment. The political tension was clear as Senator Barack Obama walked to the Republican side of the aisle to greet John McCain, who offered a chilly look and a brief return handshake.

Mr. McCain did not make remarks on the legislation. Mr. Obama, in his speech, said the bailout plan was regrettable but necessary and he referred to the stock market drop after the House vote. “While that decline was devastating, the consequences of the credit crisis that caused it will be even worse if we do not act now,” he said.

In the House, officials of both parties said they were increasingly confident that politically enticing provisions bootstrapped to the original bill — including $150 billion in tax breaks for individuals and businesses — would win over at least the dozen or so votes needed to reverse Monday’s outcome and send the measure to President Bush.

The stock market reflected nervous jitters over a vote that was to occur after it closed, but that could affect the future of many Wall Street workers. The Dow Jones industrial average was off almost 220 points during the day, but recovered to close down just 19.6 points, or 0.2 percent, at 10,831.07.

Besides the tax breaks, senators also made a change that had drawn widespread support in recent days — an increase in the amount of bank deposits covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, to $250,000 from $100,000. And the entire package was attached to legislation requiring insurers to treat mental health conditions more like general health problems — a long-sought goal of Mr. Domenici and other lawmakers who demanded such parity.

As the shape of the new bill became clearer Wednesday, some House Republicans and Democrats indicated that the changes were enough to get them to take another look at the measure and perhaps change their minds — even though the new items being added would substantially increase the burden on taxpayers.

Representative John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat who on Monday voted no, said he found the new proposal more acceptable, as did Representative Jim Ramstad, a retiring Republican from Minnesota who voted in opposition as well.

“The inclusion of parity, tax extenders and the F.D.I.C. increases has caused me to reconsider my position,” Mr. Ramstad said. “All three additions have greatly improved the bill.”

Leaders of both parties in the House, who spent much of Wednesday on the phone taking the temperature of lawmakers not scheduled to return until Thursday, said they were identifying other potential converts as well, and were finding a more receptive audience for the revised measure because of the tax package and other changes.

Some conservative House Republicans and liberal Democrats remained adamantly opposed. “The bailout legislation that the Senate is sending back to the House is a fraternal twin to the one I voted against on Monday — meet the new bill, same as the old bill,” said Representative Joe Barton, Republican of Texas.

While popular, the tax breaks, which had been the center of a bitter dispute between House and Senate Democrats, caused problems as well.

A coalition of centrist Democrats led by Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, had refused to back the tax benefits unless they were deficit neutral — offset by tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere. The bill now includes the Senate version of the tax plan, which adds most of the cost to the deficit over the next decade.

But the Senate leaders decided to present the House with a take-it-or-leave-it choice, and it is possible some Democrats could desert the bill over the tactic.

Mr. Hoyer said he was disappointed in the Senate’s decision and worried it could cost Democratic votes. “Certainly there are people who are upset we are making the deficit worse as we are trying to stabilize the economy,” Mr. Hoyer told reporters. But in a telephone conference call among the Democratic leadership Wednesday morning, he told his colleagues he would back the measure because the economic rescue needed to take priority, according to participants.

Please see source link below for the entire NY Times story.

Below is the CNBC chatter before the bill passed.

click for video

Bailout_passes_Senate

Sources
Sweetening The Bailout – CNBC
Adding Sweeteners, Senate Passes Bailout Plan – NY Times

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