Matheson to say 'no' again on the bailout
WASHINGTON - The House may pass the $700 billion Wall Street bailout today, but it won't get any help from Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah.
Despite the additions to the bill, which includes money for rural counties with large federal land holdings, Matheson will once again vote against the bill, saying: "I don't believe this bill is the right medicine to cure the disease."
The House first rejected the proposal on Monday, but will take it up again today after the Senate revised and passed the rescue package, sweetening it with nearly $110 billion in tax breaks.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, voted against the bailout Monday, but the new provisions now have him on the fence. Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, and Utah GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett support the bailout.
The Bush administration plan, first proposed two weeks ago, has been a hard sell to Congress and a skeptical public. Under the proposal, the Treasury secretary would have vast powers to use taxpayer money to assume the toxic debt from fragile financial institutions. The goal is to keep money flowing in the credit markets.
But some, like Bishop, say $700 billion is too much money and some, like Matheson, question whether the bailout would even work.
"Economists aren't able to say that this bill is actually going to solve the credit freeze problem," Matheson said.
The Bush administration and congressional leaders worked furiously Thursday to gain more support for the proposal in the House. The additions to the bill were meant to curry favor in particular with the 133 House Republicans who voted against the bill on Monday. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney also started personally calling some members. The vice president tried to contact Bishop, but he was in transit at the time.
While Bishop is skeptical of the bailout, he is a big supporter of provisions aimed at increasing federal funding to rural schools and governments. He also supports the research and development tax credits and the credits for renewable energy.
But the price tag for those sweeteners didn't sit well with everyone.
"The Senate version is even worse," Matheson said. "It's larded up with more debt and doesn't include long-term reform language that would prevent this kind of crisis from happening again."
Matheson is a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog caucus, which opposes spending provisions that are not offset by a tax increase or program cut.
But his frustration with the bailout bill, passed Wednesday by the Senate, goes well beyond that. He's not convinced the plan would function as intended or that taxpayers would receive an appropriate return on their investment. And he thinks it should include regulations to stop a future crisis.
Even though he will be voting against the measure, Matheson expects it to pass.
Congress has rarely voted on a bill that has created such a public uproar. Feedback from voters Thursday overwhelmed the House e-mail system, forcing technical staff to place a limit on the number of e-mails each office could receive.
Bishop's office received hundreds of calls, the majority of which came from people who are against the bailout provisions, said Scott Parker, Bishop's chief of staff. In recent days, though, he said the number of callers supporting the bailout has increased.