House Republicans made it clear Tuesday they are not sold on an administration plan to quickly pass a $700 billion bailout package for the flagging financial sector.
Vice President Cheney and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten attended a GOP Conference meeting to build support for the rescue package.
But exiting Republicans cited a litany of concerns with the proposal, noting it would would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the public debt. Others said they didn’t understand the deal but felt rushed to vote for it.
“I’m leaning no,” Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) said. “I don’t understand it. If you don’t understand anything, you ought to vote no.”
“There’s a lot of unanswered questions,” Financial Services ranking member Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) said. “The government does not have unlimited funds.”
Bachus said Americans are wondering why it is in their best interest to bail out “large sophisticated institutions who are in trouble. They wonder, ‘Would these institutions be rushing to their aid?’”
For ideological reasons, many Republicans “feel strongly the government shouldn’t be doing this,” Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) said.
Administration officials painted a picture of “total gridlock” in the banking system, he said. “No trust. No confidence. It’s a pretty dire situation.”
But lawmakers are reluctant to sign off on a $700 billion check without taking more time to review the plan.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s plea to pass a bailout package within 24 hours “is probably a little too quick,” Gingrey said.
Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) said the situation “stinks,” but if there is a way to ensure that the government can get its money back, the bill has “a chance of passing.”
He added, “It’s going to be a close call at this point.”
Sources inside the meeting said a large number of GOP Members lobbed questions at administration officials about why the bailout proposal is necessary, how it would work, the size of the package and whether alternatives had been weighed.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) reiterated to Members that the severity of the problem is real and that Congress has to pass something, sources said.
But Boehner also said that if Democrats put forward a “bad bill,” or one with unrelated provisions, he would not vote for it.