The New Jersey delegation's vote on the bailout bill was close, and did not occur along party lines.
But while there were some odd vote combinations, with liberal Congressmen like U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-Fair Lawn) voting the same way as his conservative neighbor, Scott Garrett (R-Wantage), they tended to cite different reasons.
Ultimately, New Jersey Congressmen voted against the bill by a 7-6 margin. None, however, enthusiastically supported it. Nor did any of its detractors express glee at its downfall, and some expressed more openness to voting for a new compromise package than others.
By far the most vociferous opponent of the bailout was Garrett, who yesterday took to the floor and excoriated his colleagues who supported it.
After the votes were tallied yesterday, Garrett released a statement saying that the bill “would have set a precedent for government intervention in the marketplace, added to the ever increasing national deficit, and increased the chances that inflationary pressures would impose what is surely the cruelest tax on families.”
Garrett has joined other conservative Republicans in cosponsoring the Economic Rescue Alternative Plan, which is more in tune with his own ideological underpinnings.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Vineland) and U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown) both released statements citing their constituents’ overwhelming opposition to the bailout, and indicating that it helped them reach a decision to vote against it. Both also said Congress should not adjourn until it passed a suitable bill.
Rothman, however, cited reasons for voting against the plan that were ideologically opposed to Garrett’s. Instead of crying out against government intervention in the marketplace, he brought up the specter of former President Ronald Reagan’s economic policies
“I think there are better ways to fix the economic problems caused by this Administration than this trickle-down Wall Street bailout program. The bill hints at, but does not make the necessary regulatory changes, fails to require direct relief for local banks and homeowners, and totally ignores the need to invest in infrastructure, energy and other economic stimulus endeavors that are so urgently needed to lift up our economy and our people,” he said.
Rothman called it a “lemon on a Wall Street bailout,” and criticized the administration for what he considered a doom and gloom message.
U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-Newark) got specific in his criticism of the bill, noting that the Oversight Board it created could advise the Secretary of Treasury, but had no real clout, and would have three Bush appointees seated on it.
“We’ve been told repeatedly over the course of this Administration that there is no money for domestic priorities that affect ordinary Americans – health care, education, transportation, high gas prices – yet somehow money is found to fight an endless war in Iraq and to bailout Wall Street,” said Payne. “I could not vote for this bill.”
Statements from U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), who both opposed the package, were not immediately available.
The bill’s supporters took much more reluctant tones when talking about why they voted or it.
After issuing a statement criticizing Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s original plan last week, U.S. Rep. Rush Holt said that legislation had taken into consideration enough of his concerns to win his support.
“I voted in favor of the Financial Rescue Legislation because it was a significant improvement – by including taxpayer protections and strong oversight – over Secretary Paulson’s original $700 billion proposal, and because inaction could have a devastating impact on our already unstable economy,” he said.
Holt, however, said more must be done, including a federal housing loan program similar to the 1930s era Owners’ Loan Corporation. Holt also favors a change in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s risk management policies.
U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-West New York) said that the bill was “not perfect” but provided enough oversight and checks on Wall Street to make it passable, and would have helped homeowners work out mortgage payments to avoid foreclosure, as well as protected renters from being thrown out of foreclosed buildings.
“I voted in favor of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008…. because it would have helped homeowners, small banks, and financial sector employees in my district,” said Sires.
U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-Haddon Heights) said that he voted for the bill because the economic consequences of inaction would have been to grave.
“The evidence demonstrates that without significant action, millions of Americans would lose their jobs, their homes and home equity, and their life savings,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch) said that the bill’s failure was “unfortunate,” and at once blamed the Bush Administration for causing the crisis while taking House Republicans to ask for refusing to act.
“Without decisive action, we were warned that credit markets would freeze up, preventing families from getting car and home loans, students from qualifying for college loans and small businesses from being able to pay their employees at the beginning of the month,” said Pallone. "This was a risk I simply could not take.”
Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the two Republicans who voted for the bill – Jim Saxton and Mike Ferguson – are on their way out of office. That seems to follow the national trend, with 18 out of 24 retiring Republicans voting for the package.
Saxton’s statement could have just as easily come from one of the bill’s Democratic supporters.
"The initial plan concerned me very much, and I have been hearing a lot of concerns from my constituents. The compromise bill isn't perfect, but it's a significant improvement. There are better protections for
retirement savings, small community banks and taxpayer's money,” he said. “Actions must be taken by Congress and the U.S. Treasury Department to get us through this economic emergency. This a bipartisan compromise that takes immediate actions."
Ferguson, for his part, said that he had a tough time voting for the measure because of his general support for a free market philosophy, but, like the New Jersey Democrats, said the risk of voting against the bill was too great.
“I’m deeply disappointed by the outcome of the House vote – mostly because we were so close to passage of this important legislation,” he said. “In the last several days, we saw both earnest and honest negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, and lawmakers on both ends of the political spectrum came together to put America’s interest first. Unfortunately, that was not enough.”