Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Four of five S.D. Congress members vote against bailout

By George E. Condon Jr. and Finlay Lewis
September 29, 2008

WASHINGTON – Undeterred by heavy lobbying and threats of reprisals, four out of five members of San Diego County's congressional delegation voted against the Wall Street bailout hammered out by the Bush administration and the bipartisan leadership of the Congress.

Only Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, voted for the $700 billion plan. Voting against was Democrat Bob Filner of San Diego and Republicans Duncan Hunter of Alpine, Darrell Issa of Vista and Brian Bilbray of Carlsbad.

For Hunter, who is retiring, the measure presented perhaps the last big vote of his 28 years in Congress. And the administration trained one of its big guns on him to pressure him for his vote.

Vice President Dick Cheney personally appealed for Hunter's support. But Hunter said he told Cheney he could not because the measure amounted to a “massive exposure for the American taxpayer for what's at best a very limited return.”

“He said he appreciated my rationale and that he disagreed with it,” Hunter said. “Over the years we've had a lot of conversations on important issues. A lot of the time we agree; a lot of the time we don't.”

For Issa, the stakes were particularly high, as he angered the Republican leadership and threatened his hopes to become chairman or ranking minority on a key House committee.

Issa was particularly outspoken in denunciation of his own party's leadership at the White House, the Treasury Department and the House. “Our president and our Treasury secretary are wrong on this issue,” he said.

On the other side of the aisle, Filner showed no reluctance to attack his own party leadership. “There was arrogant leadership on both sides,” he said.

“The leaderships want something that the rank and file doesn't. They did it all amongst themselves. The four principals went in a room and then reported back to the caucuses but they didn't take any input from the caucuses. ... This is a push back from the people who want some input.”

Davis couched her support of the bill with an acknowledgment that its provisions represented a wrenching adjustment to the rapidly weakening economy but she argued that the measure's approval was nonetheless a necessary step.

“No bill is a magic bullet but the cost of doing nothing may be far greater than the painful steps we take today,” she said in a statement prior to the roll call.

Bilbray explained his vote in a statement, contending that the measure would not do anything “to address the systemic problems that created the current financial crisis.” Bilbray, who did not return a call for comment, also complained in the statement that the bill offered “nothing but a promise to ensure that this is just a one-time deal.”

“It is not the responsibility of the American taxpayers to foot a $700 billion bill for the irresponsible actions of Wall Street and borrowers,” Bilbray said.

Bilbray's opponent in the Nov. 4 election, Democrat Nick Leibham, claimed the incumbent's vote helps prolong “the current financial crisis and sent Wall Street into free fall.”

“This man is a disaster. Literally,” Leibham said in a statement. “He has turned his back on the economic well-being of San Diego families and businesses.”