Slouching Towards Washington to Be Born


The House is set to vote on the bailout bill today, leaders optimistic that a week of arm-twisting and sky-is-falling commentary have made the job easier.

Black lawmakers said personal calls from Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama helped switch them from "no" to "yes," as Republicans and Democrats alike said appeals from credit-starved small businessmen and the Senate's addition of $110 billion in tax breaks and other sweeteners had persuaded them to drop their opposition.

"I hate it," but "inaction to me is a greater danger to our country than this bill," said GOP Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee, one of the 133 House Republicans who joined 95 Democrats in rejecting the measure Monday, sending the stock market plummeting.

Others said they were agonizing as they decided whether to change course and back the largest government intervention in markets since the Great Depression. "I'm trying desperately to get to 'yes,'" said Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.

The key to flipping House votes is not anything Obama or McCain have done, or any demands by the Republican Study Committee conservatives who torpedoed the bill last week. I keep hearing about scared constituents calling up their representatives and asking them to do something. The change from 10 to 1 anti-bailout calls and e-mails to 50/50 anti/pro-bailout calls is what's greasing the tracks. The key difference in the Senate roll call and the House roll call: Vulnerable Republicans (there are basically no vulnerable Senate Democrats) voted for the bailout. Those of them concerned about John McCain's campaign also know that he can't really win if any more time is spent talking about the economy.