Political Maneuvering and the Bailout Failure

Earlier today the Bailout Bill was defeated in the House, falling short of the 218 votes necessary for passage. Despite the fact that a majority of Democrats voted for the bill and a majority of Republicans voted against it, the GOP, especially Rep. Eric Cantor, are blaming Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats for the failure.

The Republican claim is that Nancy Pelosi delivered a “hyperpartisan floor speech” that led some of their members to switch their votes to no. Of course, it doesn’t say much about your commitment to solving a problem when you don’t vote for what your supposedly believe is the solution because you didn’t like what someone said.

Rep. Barney Frank railed on the GOP for this excuse:

“Well if that stopped people from voting, then shame on them,” he said. “If people’s feelings were hurt because of a speech and that led them to vote differently than what they thought the national interest (requires), then they really don’t belong here. They’re not tough enough.”

Here is the part of Pelosi’s speech that led the GOP to put feelings first instead of country:

“They claim to be free market advocates when it’s really an anything-goes mentality: No regulation, no supervision, no discipline. And if you fail, you will have a golden parachute and the taxpayer will bail you out. Those days are over. The party is over,” Pelosi said.

“Democrats believe in a free market,” she said. “But in this case, in its unbridled form, as encouraged, supported, by the Republicans — some in the Republican Party, not all — it has created not jobs, not capital. It has created chaos.”

There are a lot of political undercurrents at play here that have resulted in today’s failure.

A lot of Republicans are afraid of taking the political risk in supporting the bill:

“We’re all worried about losing our jobs,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., declared in an impassioned speech in support of the bill before the vote. “Most of us say, ‘I want this thing to pass, but I want you to vote for it — not me.’ “

This bill provides some Republicans the opportunity to oppose President Bush in an attempt to separate themselves from his unpopularity.

Another political undercurrent involves inter-GOP politics. Rep. Eric Cantor has been posturing himself to challenge Rep. Boehner’s leadership in the election for Minority Leader.

The Republicans do not want this to be a bipartisan measure. For this to truly be bipartisan, both sides would need to provide a similar percentage of votes for passage. What the Republicans want to do is pass the bailout, but do it with the least amount of Republican votes possible. This way, if there is political fallout from the bill, the Republicans can blame the Democrats for it. If both sides vote in approximately equal percentages both parties would have to own the consequences of the bill.

McCain aides are now trying to turn this against Barack Obama, saying that this failure happened because Obama only “phoned it in.” Unfortunately for McCain, it was the Republican side that failed to deliver the votes. If McCain was so concerned about this bill passing, shouldn’t he have spent time convincing the four Republican members of Congress from his home state of Arizona that all voted against the bill?