WASHINGTON — Washington state's three Republican House members, along with a lone Democrat, opposed a $700 billion bailout of financial markets Monday, saying they couldn't support a package that could leave taxpayers picking up the tab for Wall Street's mess.
Republican Reps. Dave Reichert, Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, along with Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee, voted against the measure negotiated by congressional leaders and the White House amid concerns over a deepening financial crisis.
The measure was defeated 228-205.
"This is about protecting the taxpayers' money and holding people accountable," said Reichert, who faces a strong election challenge from Democrat Darcy Burner. "The taxpayers are being asked to shoulder the burden. We need systemic changes. I want a free-market solution using private capital rather than taxpayer dollars."
A spokesman for Burner said she, too, opposed the bailout package because it didn't sufficiently protect taxpayers, did not provide enough oversight of Wall Street and didn't do enough to rein in executive pay.
"She believes we need to do something, but she opposed the bill," said spokesman Sandeep Kaushik.
Democratic Reps. Norm Dicks, Adam Smith, Brian Baird, Rick Larsen and Jim McDermott supported the measure.
"I was surprised, but not shocked," Dicks said of the vote. "There was a gentlemen's agreement that we would put up 140 votes and they (the GOP) would put up 100 votes. If anyone is to blame for this it is the Republicans and a failure of leadership in the White House."
Smith said that even though phone calls, e-mails and letters to his office were running 1,000-to-1 against the bill, he felt he had to support it.
"I could come up with a thousand reasons to vote against this and I respect those who did," Smith said. "But we are a representative body and I thought the situation was so dire that I voted in what I thought was the best interest of our country."
Opponents of the measure disagreed.
While the package was an improvement over the original one proposed by the White House, Hastings said that "it potentially leaves taxpayers holding the $700 billion bag for reckless actions of Wall Street and that is something I cannot support."
Democrat Inslee said there were only "limited promises" that the $700 billion would ever be repaid to taxpayers, and there were no provisions to help homeowners.
But Democrats Larsen and Baird said something had to be done, and quickly.
"Let me be absolutely clear -- the economic rescue package I voted for today is not about helping Wall Street," Larsen said. "It's about protecting all of us -- American families in Washington state and across the country who need our economy to grow and recover."
Baird said the key to his support was a provision allowing new fees or taxes on Wall Street if after five years taxpayers aren't being repaid.
"These are challenging economic times and I believe this bill, while less than ideal, remains an important first step to solving the economic problems facing our country," Baird said.
No one is quite sure what comes next, but Dicks said congressional leaders and the White House should not give up.
"We need to keep working on this to find the votes," he said.