Congressional Candidates Square Off in Helena

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Democratic U.S. House candidate John Driscoll said Saturday he plans to keep his word and vote for his Republican opponent, Rep. Denny Rehberg, in the upcoming election.

“I promised yesterday that if Congressman Rehberg voted against the bailout package that he had my vote, and this morning the first thing I said to him was, ‘Thank you. You’ve got my vote,'” Driscoll said. “However, I’m not endorsing Congressman Rehberg.”

Driscoll, Rehberg and Libertarian Mike Fellows, the other candidate for Montana’s at-large seat in the U.S. House, met Saturday morning in Helena for a debate sponsored by the Montana Press Broadcasters Association.

All three criticized the $700 billion financial rescue plan, which passed the House 263-171 on Friday and was sent to President Bush, who signed it. Rehberg and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester voted against the measure, while U.S. Sen. Max Baucus supported it.

Rehberg stood by his nay vote Saturday, saying there are “difficulties with the legislation as it passed.”

But he added there is one bright spot to the bailout, “and that is the fact that it has drawn the attention of the public to the problem that exists within Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and some of the other political GSE’s, governmental securities.”

“And so if nothing else, it gives us the opportunity to move forward,” Rehberg said. “Let Congress not miss this opportunity to try and address the issue.”

Driscoll said Congress may have done its best, but the bailout package became a “steamroller.”

“The truth is, our Congress failed as an institution,” he said. “It’s a disaster for the country.”

Driscoll said he’s seen a grave concern in the international press that “we’ve turned the whole international financial system into a casino, where only speculators will do well and substantive responsible investment will not do well.”

“Basically, we rewarded those who have made enormous profit at great risk, and then we’ve shifted the risk to the pensioners and workers,” Driscoll said.

He said the next Congress needs to put together a committee to figure out what really went wrong and find a way to fix the problem as soon as possible.