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Senate Passes Bailout Bill

The Senate accomplished what the House on Monday could not by passing, 74-25, a $700 billion Wall Street rescue plan Wednesday night.

The package that won overwhelming support among Members in both parties will now be sent to the House for another vote Friday. The vote echoed Senate rhetoric throughout the day, and the strong support on the floor vindicated Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) surprise Tuesday night decision to bring it up and add a tax-extenders package to it.

Forty Democrats and 34 Republicans voted for it, while nine Democrats, one Independent and 15 Republicans opposed it. Several Senators facing strong re-election challenges – such as Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) – voted for it. The only endangered Democratic incumbent, Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), voted against the bill. Most of the “nay” votes came from the more conservative and liberal wings.

After the vote, Reid said the Senate had acted as it was designed to, in a bipartisan way, and he indicated that voters should direct their appreciation or disapproval to both parties.

“We sent a clear message to America – to all Americans – that we will not let this economy fail,” Reid said. “This is not a Democratic bill. It’s not a Republican bill. It’s our bill.”

Reid added, more emphatically than he has previously, that he expected the House “will follow suit.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also sounded a self-congratulatory note, saying, “This has been the Senate at its finest.”

McConnell’s lead negotiator on the rescue package took what appeared to be a veiled shot at the House, where partisanship followed the bailout defeat on Monday.

The vote “came about because the institution of the Senate stepped up in a mature and responsible way under the leadership of Sen. Reid and Sen. McConnell and said we are not going to allow partisanship … to divide us in this effort to pull together and come up with a solution that we all recognize is critical,” Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said.

The House will vote on the bill Friday. A similar measure fell 12 votes short this week. House leaders were still working to see if the Senate version was retooled enough to get Members to switch their votes; many House Republicans still oppose the measure for ideological reasons and many conservative Blue Dog Democrats object to passing tax extenders that are not offset.

“Times of crisis demand decisive bipartisan action, and I welcome Senate passage of the economic rescue plan, which includes robust safeguards to ensure that taxpayers are protected through oversight and accountability,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. “The House will act in a bipartisan way to restore market confidence as well as Main Street’s confidence in our economic future.”

Before the vote, Senators came to the floor to declare their intentions, with most supporters saying they were reluctant to vote for it but were convinced that something must be done to help the nearly frozen credit markets.

“This is a tough vote. It isn’t easy,” Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) said on the floor. “A lot of people have great angst about it, and I understand their angst, and I share their anger, but at the same time, we’re here to solve problems. … The bill may not be perfect, but the times will not wait for us to have a perfect bill.”

Opponents, though outnumbered nearly 3-1, were passionate.

“While the bailout package that we are dealing with tonight is far better than the absurd proposal originally presented to us by the Bush administration, which if you can believe it would have given the secretary of the Treasury a blank check to spend $700 billion in any way that he wanted without any transparency, without any oversight, and without any judicial review. This bill … is still short of where we should be,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said.

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