If we wanted a lesson in what’s wrong with Congress, the House of Representatives delivered it loud and clear in the initial rejection of the Wall Street bailout package. The country is getting the worst of both worlds – politicians who are almost impossible to defeat but who run from their own shadows. One of the advantages of a safe seat should be that a lawmaker will do the right thing, even when it’s unpopular. Not so with this Congress.
Take a look at the breakdown of the votes against the plan supported by the Bush administration and congressional leaders of both parties: Aside from a handful of members who are in tough re-election campaigns this November, the naysayers were conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. These are members who won their last elections by anywhere from 20- to 90-point margins.
But the warnings about dire consequences to the economy coming from the president, the speaker, the treasury secretary, the majority and minority leaders, the head of the Federal Reserve and, eventually, the nominees of the two political parties didn’t move them. Instead, they responded to the streams of e-mails flowing into their offices, many of them generated by conservative talk-radio hosts and liberal Internet bloggers.