One of the chief original critics of the $700 billion bailout package as first proposed two weeks was in the majority of U.S senators who overwhelmingly approved it Wednesday, 74-25. Bob Corker, Tennessee's Republican junior senator, is willing to abide the newest version of the bill because , as he maintains, the measure is now "a purchase of assets" and not an "expenditure."
The bill is now for "Main Street" and not "Wall Street," he said.
Overall, said Corker in a conference call with Tennessee reporters on Thursday, the bill was necessary to "create liquidity in the financial system,"including the credit markets normally accessed by small businesse and ordinary purchasers.He had opposed the plan as first outlined two weeks ago by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson but, after participating in the revision process himself, had been satisfied by early changes that, among other things, he said, protected taxpayers, provided accountability and oversight, and limited exorbitant executive pay.
Most important of all, Corker said in a news release that went out simultaneous with his conference call, "100 percent of any income made will go toward paying down the debt. If our resources are invested properly, the federal government will get all of its money back and taxpayers may even see a return on the investment."
Corker told the reporters the much-vaunted tax-break "extenders" that were added onto the bill this week to attract votes not only weren't an incentive for himself but really didn't change the final package. "They are related but have very little effect on each other," said Corker of the bailout package proper and the hodge-podge of continued tax breaks that were added on after the surprise rejection of a bailout bill by the House of Representatives last Monday.
"I wish it [the extension package] hadn't been included," said Corker, who said it might attract more Republican members when the House votes again on Friday but could also repulse the "Blue Dog" or conservative Democrats who had been induced to vote for the bill on Monday. (Indeed, 8th District congressman John Tanner would say later in the day he was rethinking his original vote for the bill.)
Corker said that the add-ons got into the bill after an "ego battle" between House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, both Democrats. Reid, who favored including the tax breaks as bait for wavering members of Congress, won that debate, Corker said.
"Basically," said Corker, "what the House will vote on this time is the same bill they voted on last time."
Corker said that the only serious change made in the package defeated on Monday was the inclusion of a provision raising from $100,000 to $250,000 th e the ceiling on bank deposits insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. (9th District congressman Steve Cohen said Monday he had proposed an increase of the ceiling to $200,000 but thought the higher ceiling would be generally acceptable.)