Hodes, Shea-Porter help reject bailout

In a surprising break from party leaders, both of New Hampshire’s U.S. representatives voted against a $700 billion Wall Street bailout Monday.

U.S. Reps. Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter, both Democrats, were among the 228 House members of both parties who teamed up to defeat the bill, which needed a majority for passage but only got 205 votes.

The final vote was 140 Democrats in favor and 95 opposed. Among Republicans, 65 voted yes and 133 voted no.

This is the largest bill to date in which Hodes and Shea-Porter, both freshman congressmen, have crossed party lines. Both have been accused of siding with Democratic leaders more than 90 percent of the time since taking office early last year.

Neither representative could be reached for comment after the vote, but both released statements explaining why they voted against the massive effort to rescue banks by buying their most troubled mortgage assets.

Hodes said the Bush administration’s plan failed to protect taxpayers and provided no real oversight for greedy Wall Street investors or regulators who failed to stop them.

“They broke it, and now they’re asking all of us to buy it,” Hodes’ statement said. “This proposal would saddle taxpayers with nearly a trillion dollars in bad debt while providing inadequate relief to homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage.”

Shea-Porter said she thought it was a mistake for the Bush administration to ask Congress to vote on a $700 billion bill with only one week to consider the proposal and one day to review it.

“More than 400 economists, including Nobel Laureates, appealed to Congress to slow down and make sure we got this right,” Shea-Porter’s statement said. “Certainly, Congress needs more time than one week to invest $700 billion of taxpayer money.”

Shea-Porter also said she doesn’t support giving one person – Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson – so much control over the program’s execution.

According to political science experts, it is possible that Hodes and Shea-Porter’s votes were influenced by their ongoing bids for a second term. Both are up for re-election in November.

“You can never discount that factor when you have congressman, especially a first-term congressman, running for re-election” said Dante Scala, associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire.

Hodes’ opponent in the 2nd Congressional District, former radio talk show host and Telegraph columnist Jennifer Horn, of Nashua, has said she opposes bailing out Wall Street because of the unintended consequences of big government.

Shea-Porter’s opponent, former Congressman Jeb Bradley, supports a revised version of the bill that would be a bipartisan solution although its not clear whether he would have voted for or against the original bill.

Dean Spiliotes, the former director of research and visiting scholar at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, who now runs the blog NHPoliticalCapital.com, said the decisions could have been based on the bailout’s unpopularity with voters.

“My guess is they got a lot of calls from constituents that were outraged at the idea of a bailout,” Spiliotes said.

He also said a Democrat in an election year doesn’t wasn’t to be thought of as someone who bailed out Republicans.

But he said political calculation could have also played a role.

“It takes away a little bit of the argument that they are . . . voting with the Democratic leadership most of the time,” Spiliotes said.

Monday’s stunning vote united some of the House’s polar opposites when it comes to politics.

“The more liberal members of Congress and the more conservative members of Congress might have found common ground,” Scala said.

Both largely voted against the bill, although for different reasons.

Scala said conservatives who voted “no” were concerned about excessive government intervention that could encourage bad behavior on Wall Street, while liberals who voted no said the plan amounted to the wealthy bailing out the wealthy.

The goal of the bailout was to revive the American economy by purchasing bad mortgage-related debt related to the subprime and housing crisis from banks and other financial institutions.

The original proposal suggested giving Paulson ultimate authority over the bailouts, but a revised proposal added oversight and some protections for taxpayers, according to an Associated Press report.

Monday’s no vote was called “stunning” because it appeared to have bipartisan support.

The decision sent stocks plunging, with the Dow Jones industrials falling nearly 780 points in their largest one-day point drop ever.