Early Monday afternoon the House of Representatives rejected theestimated $700 billionfederal bailout packageof the U.S. financial system,sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average into a tailspin. The 228-205 vote marked bipartisan hesitation over the bill: Forty percent of House Democrats (Democrats control the House) voted against it, while 67% of Republicans did the same.
While there were lawmakers who opposed the package on the merits, with Election Day just five weeks away, substantial numbers decided that to favor the bill would be to imperil their own political futures. And once the vote was under way and so few Republicans were voting aye, Democrats were disinclined to force more of their members to help pass the unpopular plan.
The leaders of both parties failed, many analysts agreed, in bringing the measure to the House floor without knowing whether it had the votes to pass - a bad move at any time, but especially so in this case given the risk of the markets and the badly weakened financial system reacting badly.
Representative John A. Boehner, the House Republican leader, became emotional as he urged his party to muster the will to approve the package. After his members overwhelmingly voted against it, he tried to shift the blame to a partisan speech delivered on the floor just before the vote by Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker.
Ms. Pelosi delivered the Democratic votes she had promised, but could not muster enough of them to avert a defeat that could long be remembered.
When was the last time someone asked you for $700 billion? It is a number that is staggering, but tells us only the costs of the Bush administration's failed economic policies: policies built on budgetary recklessness, on an anything-goes mentality, with no regulation, no supervision, and no discipline in the system.
And it didn't get any more statesman-like after that.
As a study in his prospective leadership, the role of Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, has done him no political good. After suspending his campaign last week and vowing to work with Republicans until a resolution was in hand, Mr. McCain was campaigning in Ohio on Monday with his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, as the House vote commenced. There he implicitly took credit for the compromise bailout that Congressional leaders had negotiated over the weekend, even as it was going down to defeat."
She concluded by lamenting the Republican Party was no longer the party of "business and economic stewardship" and let a left-of-center scholar pass judgment.
Both parties agreed the bailout would easily pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate, with support from most of the Republicans there. So the House Republicans made the difference. Their mutiny captured just how much the Republican Party has changed from its 19th-century roots as the party of business and economic stewardship.
"I don't think this was a failure of leadership so much as a failure of followership," said Thomas Mann, a scholar on Congress at the Brookings Institution. "This is a function of a group of House Republicans who are philosophically opposed to doing anything like this bailout and are prepared to take the risk."
And afront-page story by Carl Hulse and David Herszenhorn, "Leaders Rebuffed in 228-205 Vote - Broad Public Anger Is Cited," also cast blame on the GOP. The text box: "Two-thirds of Republicans voted no, ignoring pleas by [sic] from the party's leaders."
Besides stockholders whose portfolios were ravaged Monday afternoon, the one person with the most riding on the bailout bill that collapsed in Congress may have been Senator John McCain.
Mr. McCain had announced last week that he was suspending his presidential campaign to work to ensure the legislation's passage, even at the risk of skipping the first presidential debate unless a deal was locked down. (He later relented, debating without a deal.) He had called for the high-level White House meeting that some participants later called unhelpful. And after some initial hesitation, he had allowed himself to be identified with a bill that he thought necessary even if unpopular.
So when the deal fell apart on the House floor Monday, in no small measure because most of the chamber's Republicans balked at voting for it, the McCain campaign worked to contain the potential for damage. The first defense was to go on offense.
It's clear who the Times wanted readers to root for here:
Then, after Mr. Obama had urged Americans and the financial markets to "stay calm" in the wake of the rescue plan's collapse, while prodding Congress to "get this done," Mr. McCain hastily called a news conference here in which he, too, seemed to place some blame on Mr. Obama.