COMMENTS: Policy or Politics?

"They all got an earful from their constituents," explained NBC's Tom Costello, accounting for the pressure on House members to defy their leadership. NBC's Kevin Tibbles and CBS' Sandra Hughes both surveyed the surly popular mood in opposition to federal funds for financial firms. "Most people we talked to today said it was OK the bill went down to defeat because Congress should take its time when spending so much taxpayer money," Hughes reported. Tibbles heard the "firestorm on Main Street" spill over as outrage on talkradio and showed us an outpouring of furious letters to the editor at Chicago Tribune.

NBC's political director Chuck Todd (at the end of the Liesman videostream) dramatized the intensity of voters' opposition to the $700bn package with a vivid statistic. He divided House members into two categories: those who had fought a closely contested election in the past three cycles; and those who held safe seats. A majority of the latter, from both parties, supported the legislation; a majority of the former opposed it. "It was clearly a political vote for these guys. They know the election is coming in four weeks."

CNBC's economist Steve Liesman suggested that the bailout was so unpopular among elected legislators that the Treasury Department is considering "doing something administratively that does not require Congressional approval" involving expanded powers for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.


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