Senate Approves Remaining $350 Billion in Bailout Funding

Posted January 15, 2009 at 4:15pm

President-elect Barack Obama will have access to the remaining $350 billion in Wall Street bailout funds when he takes office, after the Senate beat back an attempt to deny him the money Thursday.

By a vote of 42-52, the Senate voted down a resolution of disapproval for releasing the second installment of the financial industry rescue program that was originally enacted in October.

A “yes” vote was a vote to deny Obama the funds, while a “no” vote was in support of giving him the money.

Eight Senate Democrats and one Democratic-leaning Independent voted against giving Obama access to the money. They were Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Russ Feingold (Wis.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.) and Evan Bayh (Ind.).

For his part, Nelson said he couldn’t vote to release the second half of the funds given the Bush administration’s mismanagement of the initial $350 billion.

“After the first mistake, and the way it’s been handled, and after doing my due diligence, I don’t feel comfortable going back to Nebraska and saying, ‘Well, we’ve done it again.’”

Besides Shaheen, all of the new Democratic freshmen Senators voted to support the financial rescue plan. In recent days, Obama and his top surrogates have made direct appeals to Senators for support.

Only six of 41 Republicans voted to release the bailout funds, including Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Senate GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.). Other Republicans who voted for the bailout were Sens. Judd Gregg (N.H.), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and George Voinovich (Ohio).

“I would not have voted this way if President-elect Obama had not assured us that he will use this money as it was intended: to keep credit flowing by strengthening financial institutions and housing markets, and not for new industry-by-industry bailouts,” Alexander said in a statement explaining his vote.

GOP Senators, such as Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Susan Collins (Maine), who were expected to vote for the measure, said they did not get enough specifics from Obama’s economic team about how it would manage the bailout differently. Plus, Corker said he feels that Congress should dictate what limits it wants to put on the program.

“The fact that we would not take the time legislatively to create a solution to that is irresponsible,” Corker said.

Collins said she thought the Obama economic team “did a good job” of promising to change the program’s management, but she criticized a letter that Obama economic adviser Larry Summers sent to Congress earlier this week as too vague.

“When it came to translating those promises into writing, there were a lot of conditional words,” she said.

Two Senators paired their votes, meaning they did not vote because an absent Senator would have canceled out their vote anyway. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said he would have voted to end the program, but he paired with an absent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who supported the program. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), meanwhile, paired his opposition vote with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who would have voted for the money.