Friday, September 26, 2008

Re-election fears, payback drove House GOP bailout revolt

By Margaret Talev and David Lightman | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader John Boehner got a standing ovation from his Republican colleagues on Friday, one day after he led their move to derail a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street negotiated by President Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, congressional Democrats and Senate Republicans.

Despite the image of political chaos in Washington that their stand caused, Boehner told his House GOP colleagues at their closed-door meeting Friday that they'd given him one of the best receptions he'd ever gotten as their leader.

Why? Rep. Ray LaHood, a retiring Illinois congressman, explained the enthusiasm: "Because he stood up to the president and Paulson."

Democrats have charged that the House Republicans' revolt against the bipartisan bailout plan was a ploy to help Republican presidential nominee John McCain by giving him a mess to clean up. As it turned out, McCain's high-profile eleventh-hour intervention achieved nothing. Still, the political reality behind the House Republicans' action is much more complicated than the Democrats' charge.

House Republicans are motivated by their own troubled re-election bids in November; fear of primary challenges in the next election cycle if they’re seen as reckless spenders; strong small-government and free-market convictions; and internal House GOP leadership politics — including whether Boehner will stay in his job and who might one day succeed him.

Then there's the Republicans' pent-up anger at President Bush for repeatedly pushing them to quickly pass major legislation that they later regretted — such as authorizing the Iraq war, costly Hurricane Katrina spending and the expensive Medicare prescription drug benefit plan.



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