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Conservatives Come Out Strong Against Bailout Bill

As the House kicked off three hours of debate on the $700 billion bailout package Monday morning, conservative Republicans wasted no time expressing their opposition to the massive government support of the financial sector.

Before the debate began, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) requested that the House adjourn without taking up the bailout package “so we don’t do this terrible thing to America.”

Gohmert temporarily delayed debate by seeking a 15-minute vote to establish a quorum on the floor.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said he “cannot in good conscience” vote for the package because it “socializes losses,” and he called for spending more time reviewing other proposals.

“I believe that this plan is fraught with unintended consequences, would force generations of taxpayers to pick up the tab for Wall Street losses, and could permanently and fundamentally change the role of government in the American free enterprise system,” Hensarling said.

The RSC chairman said Congress rushed through the issue and “did not adequately discuss or investigate potential alternatives that would have constituted a work out and not a bail out.”

On the other end of the spectrum, some progressive Democrats are opposed to the bill over its lack of foreclosure provisions and for handing over so much money to the Bush administration.

“Why are we willing to even make available $700 billion to this administration?” asked Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.)

“President Bush and Secretary Paulson have been wrong from the start on just about everything,” said Woolsey. “If you think they’ll be responsible with this money, think again. I, for one, will be in eminent opposition of this bailout.”

Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) warned Members that not passing the bill could have dire consequences.

“If we defeat this bill today, it will be a very bad for the financial sector in the American economy and the people who will feel the pain are not the top bankers and the top corporate executives, but average Americans,” Frank said. “Pain averted is not a basis on which you get a lot of gratitude, but that is what is coming if we do not do something today.”

The morning debate has produced some reluctant supporters and plenty of opponents — as well as some colorful explanations.

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), firmly in the “no” camp, called the bill a “huge cow patty with a piece of marshmallow stuck in the middle of it.”

Earlier, fellow Republican Dan Lungren (Calif.) reached back to his lifeguarding years to illustrate why lawmakers need to act now to stave off a disaster. He argued that lawmakers, like lifeguards, don’t get praise for the tragedies they prevent. “I didn’t get credit for saving them after they dove in and broke their necks,” he said, perhaps twisting his point.

Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.

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