Financial Rescue Draws Opposition from Left and Right

Progress towards action in the House and Senate continues apace. House leaders expect a vote on the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act tomorrow. The Senate will take up the measure as well, but action on Monday may be limited to filing a cloture petition, which would mature on Wednesday. The Senate could vote tomorrow if leaders can obtain a unanimous consent agreement, but that is difficult.

While the bipartisan, bicameral leadership appears united on approving the package, there is enough opposition on the right and left to make things interesting. This is particularly true in the House, where some influential members on both ends of the spectrum are organizing opposition.

Still to be convinced is the Republican Study Committee, an important group of over 100 conservative House members. One of its more prominent members, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), sent a letter to his colleagues strongly opposing the rescue legislation. "The decision to give the federal government the ability to nationalize almost every bad mortgage in America interrupts this basic truth of our free market economy," wrote Pence. "Republicans improved this bill but it remains the largest corporate bailout in American history, forever changes the relationship between government and the financial sector, and passes the cost along to the American people. I cannot support it," he concluded.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) met with approximately 35 colleagues in what he called the "Skeptics Caucus." Sherman predicted to reporters that the fragile Democratic support would not hold if the vote gets postponed until after Rosh Hashanah, which begins at sundown on Monday. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), who is actually responsible for counting and "whipping" Democratic votes, was more confident about the Democratic vote count. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), has said she must have 100 Republican votes to move forward. Democratic leaders also worry that without strong Republican support, their members may defect. 

In the end, this will be a test of whether the center can hold in the House. It appears the opposition, while vocal, may fall short of raising a serious threat. On the Senate side, there does not appear to be organized opposition to the extent there is in the House. However, the more time passes, the greater the opportunity for Senators to coalesce around objections. For this reason, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), ranking GOP member of the Budget Committee, is urging a vote tomorrow. House and Senate leaders will continue pressing their colleagues tonight and tomorrow, and we will keep you posted on the latest developments.

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