Frustrated lawmakers scrambled to get details of a Wall Street rescue plan Sunday, just hours before an expected roll call today on a massive government intervention in the financial services industry.
“Usually with matters of this magnitude there's a lot more time to decide,” Rep. John Spratt, a York County, S.C., Democrat said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office.
Though the foundation of an agreement had been reached late Saturday by a bipartisan group of negotiators, many members of Congress sought more assurances from a 110-page bill that wasn't released until dusk Sunday. A vote was expected as early as today in both the House and Senate.
“This thing is very much in flux,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Cherryville Republican who was on his way to a briefing for House Republicans, a group that had expressed the most outspoken reservations about a bailout plan.
Despite lingering doubts, several lawmakers said important progress had been made.
“They've made drastic improvements,” said Rep. Heath Shuler, a Waynesville Democrat. “I do hear that there are ‘pay fors' basically protecting the taxpayer. The uncertainty of giving the same people $700billion who have created this problem, my district I'm sure has heartburn over that. It's going to take an entire staff and group of members of Congress to vet this thing.”
Rep. Mel Watt, a Democrat from Charlotte, said he would look for whether his concerns had been addressed on how the plan would affect property owners, small and minority businesses, accountability and transparency.
“I had no reason to believe they would cry wolf if the wolf wasn't at the door,” Watt said of the plan's original architects, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke. “I was not prepared to take the risk that there wasn't a problem.”
Spratt said lawmakers would have to put aside the political stakes.
“These are big votes and there comes a time you subordinate things like that for the good of the country,” he said.