Jose Serrano didn’t expect to be the only city congressman to oppose the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill.
“I’m surprised to find out that I’m the only New York City person to vote no,” said Mr. Serrano in a telephone conversation a few hours after he cast his vote. “I thought other people would vote no. Not saying it’s a good or bad thing, but I was surprised.”
Mr. Serrano, a Democrat and a Puerto Rican native who represents a majority Latino district in the South Bronx, said that politically speaking, the vote was a vote of no confidence in George Bush, John McCain and the House Republican leaders who thought they had enough members to pass the legislation. Asked if it was also a failure for Barack Obama, who pushed for an agreement on the measure, Mr. Serrano said it wasn’t because Mr. Obama hadn’t made a high-profile entrance into the negotiations. Mr. Serrano said his vote had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with protecting his South Bronx constituents.
“I represent the poorest district in the nation, which is located within the richest city on the earth,” he said. He added that while his district saw so little positive change during the boom on Wall Street, “those boys were either misleading us or stealing from us or making bad investments.” So now, he said, “why should I bail them out at the expense, initially, at the expense of my constituents and constituents like mine across the nation?”
Mr. Serrano contended that the $700 billion bailout would deprive poor Americans of education and health care programs down the road. “Why should I be doing that?”
Mr. Serrano said he was “not convinced” that the bill would sufficiently protect people’s pensions. Asked whether he felt responsible for the nose dive the market took on Sept. 29 after the House voted against the bill, he said, “It’s not like we caused it. The market has been in trouble for a while.”
Mr. Serrano agreed to a bailout in principle, but said that it should do more to address the financial concerns of low-income Americans. “It should be from the bottom up,” he said.
Still, Mr. Serrano said he was not looking for another draft of the legislation. “I wouldn’t even consider voting for anything right now,” he said, because nobody seemed to have policies directed specifically at helping lower-income Americans.
“They created this mess,” he said, referring to Wall Street traders. “They can take care of this mess.”