Rehberg Explains Opposition to Bailout Bill

By Beacon Staff

Shortly after joining 227 of his congressional colleagues in opposing a $700 billion rescue of the nation’s financial sector Monday, U.S. Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont., said the legislation would have failed to prevent such an economic collapse from happening again in the future, and it did not go far enough to help small commercial banks in states like Montana.

“Are we asking the general taxpayer to solve an issue that was created by someone else?” Rehberg, Montana’s lone congressman, asked in a conference call with reporters. “I looked at the legislation; I came to the conclusion ‘yes’.”

“That became the basis for my opposition,” he added.

The so-called “bailout” legislation failed 228-205, with 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats opposing it. The bill was supported by 140 Democrats and 65 Republicans. Financial markets around the world plunged as it grew apparent the bill would fail.

Vice President Dick Cheney called Rehberg to personally ask him to support the legislation. In his discussion with Cheney, Rehberg said he explained he did not believe the legislation protected taxpayers nor would it aid Montana’s commercial banks.

“They recognize the liquidity problem in the banks, but didn’t see how this brought them any closer to a solution,” Rehberg said. “I think we can come up with a better product and that’s what I’m holding out for.”

Acknowledging the financial turmoil ensuing as a result of the legislation’s failure, Rehberg said he could not let the market determine how he votes. He also noted his office has received many calls from constituents opposed to the bailout.

“I have to look at the long term and not just the short term,” he said. “Ultimately, Americans and Montanans will judge us on how well we solve the problem, not how fast we solve the problem.”

Rehberg did not offer many specifics on what provisions must be contained in financial rescue legislation in order for him to support it, but suggested increasing FDIC insurance coverage on deposits, possibly reducing the capital gains tax to allow banks to more easily sell unwanted assets and putting “money back into the local banks in Montana to give them the opportunity to begin loaning money again.”

Calling the financial rescue legislation “the single most important and biggest issue I will ever have to vote on,” Rehberg touted the role of Congress in not rushing to a vote on such significant legislation, particularly when it is certain to impact the U.S. economy for years to come.

“If we don’t do this right and don’t fix the fundamental reason we are in this situation, we may face this problem again,” he said.

It is unclear, based on the Jewish holidays and the unexpected opposition of the House, when a financial bailout package in some modified form could come up for another vote.