Frank: Voting For Bailout Bill Like Wizzing Down Your Leg

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said that a single conversation caused her to change her mind. She spoke Thursday with California state treasurer Bill Lockyer who told her that if the state’s fiscal situation continued on its current path, California would be unable to pay teachers, firefighters, healthcare workers, cops and other essential employees after October 27. Short term credit had become unavailable, he told her, and needed to be loosened up.

Woolsey said she asked him if he could assure her that if the bailout passed that the situation would improve. “He could not say absolutely it would make things better, but he said what was absolutely certain was that if it failed things would get worse,” said Woolsey. “He painted a very dire picture.”

Stuck between two bad choices, she said, she decided to take Lockyer’s advice knowing it will hurt her in her district. “I know I will [pay a price], but I would have either way,” she said. “We weren’t sent here to do the easy thing.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who also switched from no to yes, spoke Thursday with Lockyer as well. “It was a good conversation,” said Lee, adding that she reached out to Lockyer, whom she called a “great friend,” after getting his letter. Lockyer is a former state legislator and, said Dressler, also very good friends with no-voters Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), also former state legislators. Schiff and Thompson also switched from no to yes.

Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) said that there wasn’t one single cause of his vote switch. “I just woke up this morning, after a lot of prayer, thinking that yes was the right vote,” he said, noting that the vast majority of his district still opposes.

Conaway said meetings he had with constituents helped convince him to switch his vote. Back home, he met with a group of high school seniors. One kid in the back row asked if the tightening credit might meant that he might not be able to get a student loan. “I said, ‘You hit the nail on the head. That’s one of the ramifications,’” he told him.

He also did two townhall meetings, he said. “Upon arrival, I was cheered and hugged and kissed and patted on the back for my ‘no’ vote. And as I walked them through the concerns I had with what was going on, the mood became somber and less assured of their support for a ‘no’ vote. And as I was leaving, the one comment was, “Well, we’re glad you have to make the decision and not me,’” Conaway said.

Conaway, like Woolsey, is expecting political retribution, though he’s not in danger of losing his seat this cycle. The problem, he said, is that the bill is preventing harm rather than doing positive good. Much like the efforts to prevent a disaster around Y2K, said Conaway, this effort will go unnoticed if it does what it’s intended to do.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) had a more colorful way to make the same point, quoting LBJ: “It’s like wearing dark pants and p---ing down your leg,” he said before the vote. “It gives you a warm feeling, but no one knows you did it.”

"It sounds like Barney has had an experience I haven't had," said Conaway.