On the verge of the Senate's vote on the $700 billion bailout bill, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made one last pitch to his colleagues to support the legislation, which he praised for being born of bipartisan cooperation.
McConnell, noting that both presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain returned for the vote, said the negotiations between Republican and Democratic leaders to forge a compromise have been "unprecedented."
"I think it is one of the finest moments in the history of the Senate," he said just before the vote, which began shortly after 9 p.m.
The measure passed overwhelmingly, 74-25, with bipartisan support, including McCain and Obama.
McConnell, followed by Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid, said the compromise reached the passage "illustrates how well we’ve worked together on a bipartisan basis to try to address the difficult crisis."
One senator not swayed was Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky.
Bunning voted "No" on the floor but did not speak. Instead he entered into the congressional record a lengthy statement outlining his opposition to the bailout plan and saying he had "no confidence" in it to work.
"I have no confidence it will work, and the only people I have heard that have confidence that it will work are the Treasury Secretary and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the people who proposed in the first place," Bunning's official statement said. "Even Senators supporting this bill say things like 'I hope this will work' or 'we have to do this because nothing is not an option.' I say that $700 billion is a lot of money to gamble on hope, especially when there are other options.
Bunning went on to criticize Congress for not giving greater consideration to alternative plans and again slammed U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for spearheading the government intervention.
"To sell the public and Congress on this Wall Street bailout, the
President, Secretary Paulson, and Chairman Bernanke have pushed the
media and public to the edge of panic by telling everyone we are
staring at the second coming of the Great Depression," Bunning said.
Here is a sample of the rest of his statement:
Now, Mr. President, I do support taking action to address the mess government created. To restore confidence, instead of giving the Secretary $700 billion, we should send a signal that we are serious about this and stay in Washington until we have a real solution. One way we could do that is to give the Secretary a far smaller amount of funds to use to unfreeze the markets, and take a few weeks to hold some hearings, meet with experts who might have different ideas, and find a way to fix what is broken. We certainly should not just rely on the opinions of the people who created this mess and stand to benefit the most from this proposal.
The U.S. House could vote on the Senate-approved bailout bill as early as Friday. McConnell, speaking to Washington reporters, wouldn't predict whether the House would support it after it turned away an earlier version on Monday on a 205-228 vote.
Later, in an afternoon floor speech, McConnell said he thought the House would pass it by the end of the week.
- Ryan Alessi