Johnson Opposes Bank Bailout Twice, but Lewis Caves In
(APN) ATLANTA – US Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and John Barrow (D-GA) maintained their opposition to the economic bailout bill, which among other things would buy mortgage-backed securities from banks for $700 billion, during two rounds of voting. However, US Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and David Scott (D-GA) changed positions, from nay on the first bill and yea on the second, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
Meanwhile, US Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and John Marshall (D-GA) voted yea both times.
Johnson and Barrow were the only two Democratic Congressmen from Georgia to oppose the bill when the US Senate version passed the US House on October 03, 2008, 263-171.
“Without giving serious thought to workable alternatives, I simply cannot support a bill that further burdens the taxpayer and does nothing to address the economy from the bottom-up,” US Rep. Johnson said in a press release obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.
“Like every American, I know that we must find a way to fix Wall Street and protect our nation’s economy. I remain deeply frustrated that the President’s bill which I voted against, for the second time in less than a week, was the only option on the table,” Johnson said.
“I remain in agreement with many of the greatest economic minds in the country that there are alternatives to this acutely flawed bill — yet none of those alternatives were even considered. In a debate as serious as this, I find it profoundly disturbing that there was one, and only one, option,” Johnson said.
US Rep. Lewis made the following statement about his vote switch on the US House Floor:
“Madame Speaker, I have decided that the cost of doing nothing is greater than the cost of doing something. The fear that is gripping Wall Street has the power to shut down Main Street. We cannot and we must not allow that to happen. The people are afraid. Their retirement savings are slipping away. Small businesses have no sales, no credit, and are closing their doors. People cannot get loans. They are losing their lines of credit,” Lewis said, according to a statement on his website.
“We must act. We must do something. But I do not see this as a blank check. In a few months, we will have a new President and a new Congress. We must hold the feet of these financial institutions to the fire. It is only with that assurance that I will vote yes on this legislation. Thank you Madame Speaker,” Lewis said.
Atlanta activist Dianne Mathiowetz criticized Lewis for switching his vote.
“It’s so reminiscent of the whole Iraq debacle, where these people claim to be opposed to the war but voted to give Bush the authority to do something they knew he would do,” she told Atlanta Progressive News.
“They’re giving authority to Paulson to spend $700 billion with no oversight, and they somehow think when Obama gets elected- what are they gonna do? How are they gonna get it back? They’ve already given it away.”
US Rep. Barrow explained his continued opposition to the bill in a statement published on the website for WSB-TV.
“The economy’s in real trouble, but that means we have to make sure that what we do will actually help. I believe this plan will do more harm than good – maybe not now, but sooner or later. The Senate tried to send us something we could all agree on, but all they really did was dress up the same bill we voted on earlier this week with sweeteners to get some members of the House to change their vote. Most of the new items in this bill I have voted for and would vote for again, but not if it means voting for a bailout that’ll do more harm than good. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s how it looks right now,” Barrow said.
“Here’s what the bill we voted on today does not have: It doesn’t have strong enough taxpayer protections to make sure the taxpayers will not end up footing the 700 billion dollar cost of the bailout. It doesn’t close the loopholes that will still allow the Wall Street executives who got us into this mess to line their pockets with even more of our hard earned money. And it doesn’t stop foreign investors from getting more of our money. It’s better than what the Bush administration demanded two weeks ago, but it’s still not good enough.”
The first vote, on September 29, 2008, on HR 3997–an unrelated bill which was amended to be the US House vehicle for the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008″ or Wall Street bailout-defeated the measure, 205-228, against passage.
In the first US House vote, US Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and John Marshall (D-GA) voted yea, while Barrow, Johnson, Lewis, and Scott voted nay.
In the second US House vote, on October 03, 2008, on HR 1424-another unrelated bill passed by the US House and then amended by the Senate to be their vehicle for the bailout-only centrist Barrow and left-leaning Johnson voted nay. Bishop, Lewis, Marshall, and Scott voted yea.
The second bill, which passed, was different from the first bill because it contained language raising the cap on FDIC insurance on people’s checking and savings deposits from $100,000 to $250,000; it contained about $150 billion in corporate tax breaks to make it more attractive to House Republicans; it added hundreds of pages of pork, or unrelated, even obscure, special interest amendments; and the whole package was added on to a mental health parity bill which had previously passed the US House.
On Thursday, October 02, 2008, Atlanta activists protested at the Federal Reserve building in Atlanta’s Midtown. Two protests were held, including one at noon and one at 6pm, with about 30 and 20 people showing up at each, respectively.
Atlanta Progressive News was on hand for the second protest and noticed that many cars driving by were honking their horns in support.
The protest, organized by progressive activists, also drew Libertarian Ron Paul supporters. The Paul supporters also opposed the bailout, but said they believed it was too much regulation, not a lack of regulation, that led to the current economic situation.
“The activity we called on short notice in Atlanta was to register deep-felt opposition to this bailout. We were part of what was going on across the country with thousands of emails and phonecalls to Congress people across the country and events that were held elsewhere,” Mathiowetz said.
“Our demands were, bail out the people, not banks. Foreclose the war, not people. Fund human needs, not war and corporate greed,” Mathiowetz said.
“We want a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions,” Mathiowetz said. “Congress should take the taxpayers money and use it to solve the problems that people were having, not flush the money down the toilet of Wall Street,” Mathiowetz said.
“The people who switched and changed their vote fell in the same sort of fear trap the Bush Administration has so skillfully used to wage the war in Iraq, pass the Patriot Act. Not to have held any hearings, not to hear what this legislation is gonna do, to hand a blank check over to the Secretary is beyond anybody’s belief,” Mathiowetz said. “They rewarded again those who essentially committed the crime and the people who got victimized by the subprime lending schemes, they’re just as hurt if not more hurt today because now the taxpayers are $700 million more in debt,” Mathiowetz said.