Washington: The House of Representatives on Monday defeated a $700 billion emergency rescue package, ignoring urgent pleas from President George W. Bush and bipartisan congressional leaders to quickly bail out the staggering U.S. financial industry.
Stocks plummeted on Wall Street even before the 228-205 vote to reject the bill was announced on the House floor.
When the critical vote was tallied, too few members of the House were willing to support the unpopular measure with elections just five weeks away. Ample no votes came from both the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle.
Bush and a host of leading congressional figures had implored the lawmakers to pass the legislation despite howls of protest from their constituents back home.
The vote had been preceded by unusually aggressive White House lobbying, and spokesman Tony Fratto said that Bush had used a “call list” of people he wanted to persuade to vote yes as late as just a short time before the vote.
Lawmakers shouted news of the plummeting Dow Jones average as lawmakers crowded on the House floor during the drawn-out and tense call of the roll, which dragged on for roughly 40 minutes as leaders on both sides scrambled to corral enough of their rank-and-file members to support the deeply unpopular measure.
They found only two.
Bush and his economic advisers, as well as congressional leaders in both parties had argued the plan was vital to insulating ordinary Americans from the effects of Wall Street’s bad bets. The version that was up for vote Monday was the product of marathon closed-door negotiations in Congress over the weekend.
“We’re all worried about losing our jobs,” Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican, 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.’”
With their dire warnings of impending economic doom and their sweeping request for unprecedented sums of money and authority to bail out cash-starved financial firms, Bush and his economic chiefs have focused the attention of world markets on Congress, Ryan added.
“We’re in this moment, and if we fail to do the right thing, Heaven help us,” he said.