Citizen Staff Writer
Count on the $700 billion financial rescue plan turning into a campaign issue in the hotly contested congressional race between state Senate President Tim Bee, a Republican, and freshman U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat.
Bee criticized Giffords on Friday for approving a broader version of the package, which many call a Wall Street bailout, after having opposed the bill Monday.
The House voted 263-171 to approve the measure, which President Bush signed into law Friday.
The money will be available to seize credit markets vital for continued lending in the country.
Minutes after the vote, Bee launched into Giffords’ vote as piling on the American taxpayer because it included a number of tax cuts (including one for toy arrow makers) not vital to the current economic crisis, but vital to winning enough support for passage.
Bee criticized Giffords for supporting the bill after a solar tax credit she long supported was added to it.
“Her vote to roll over taxpayers was bought with tax credits that a real leader would have passed months ago as part of an all-of-the-above energy package,” Bee said.
Giffords said she decided Thursday to vote for the unpopular measure even if it costs her seat in Congress.
“If we don’t pass this, it can severely damage the financial future of everyone in America,” she said Thursday. “I know a lot of people are going to be angry with me.”
The Christmas-tree quality of the bill, including tax breaks for specific industries, disturbed Giffords but she said there wasn’t much she could do about it.
“Those things would have been immediately taken out of the bill in any other situation,” she said.
Giffords said that when the stock market dropped 778 points Monday after the first bailout failed in the House, she started hearing from Green Valley residents concerned about their retirement investments.
Bee did not say if he would have supported or opposed the underlying $700 billion bailout without the tax cuts. He said he supported the solar tax credit but did not want it to be part of another bill.
Bee’s representatives did not immediately return phone calls seeking further explanation.
U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat representing southwestern Arizona, voted against the bill because he said it did not include enough taxpayer protection, oversight and homeowner assistance. He called the vote the most difficult he has made in Congress but said his vote was not critical to the outcome.
Two other Arizona congressmen – John Shadegg, a Republican, and Harry Mitchell, a Democrat – also changed their votes to support the bill.
The Senate approved the measure Wednesday, with Arizona Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain voting for it.
$700 billion bailout major issue in Bee-Giffords duel
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.
Today, I joined a strong bipartisan majority of my congressional colleagues in voting for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. This legislation is far from perfect, but the economic crisis confronting our nation demands congressional action.
Many parts of this legislation added by the Senate are ridiculous – to me and my constituents. But sitting on the sidelines and risking major economic collapse would be irresponsible. Retirement accounts, jobs, the safety of our money in local banks, and the survival of small businesses in Southern Arizona and across the country are on the line.
Let me be clear: I have no interest in bailing out the greedy corporate executives who created this mess. But inaction at this time would be negligent.
This is not the same bill that was rejected by a bipartisan majority in the House on Monday. It is a better bill because it helps taxpayers – not just Wall Street. It is not a silver bullet but I believe it is necessary to prevent further harm to our economy.
Over the past two weeks, thousands of my constituents in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District have contacted me about our economy. Families, business leaders, seniors, students – they all are very concerned. One local bank executive told me he was forced to stop lending money for new mortgages because of the uncertainty over having the funds to cover loans. Several business owners told me they cannot get credit necessary to maintain cash flow and meet payroll. Older citizens are terrified watching their hard-earned savings or retirement accounts disappear before their eyes with the potential of sinking them into poverty. This is a disturbing situation and the consequences of inaction would directly affect all of us.
The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act not only addresses these concerns but also promotes growth-oriented policies with clear tax benefits for Southern Arizonans and all Americans.
The most important among these for Southern Arizona’s economic development is an eight-year extension of the residential and commercial solar tax credits. Investing in renewable sources of energy like solar is one of the best ways to stimulate our economy, create new jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I have long advocated extending the credits and I am very pleased that today’s bill includes these provisions.
This bill also recognizes that the economic stability of our nation also depends on a strong middle-class. It cuts taxes for hard-working Southern Arizonans by protecting more than 42,000 middle-class families in my district from having to pay as much as $4,000 in higher taxes as a result of the Alternative Minimum Tax this year. In addition, the bill increases the number of families who can qualify for the child tax credit – more than 53,000 of my constituents claimed this credit in 2005 – and extends tax deductions for state and local sales and property taxes as well. More than 127,000 CD-08 taxpayers itemized their taxes and took advantage of these kinds of deductions to offset their expenses and lower their tax bills in 2005.
I also am pleased with the temporary increases in coverage for individuals’ bank accounts to $250,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. For the last 28 years, the FDIC has insured individuals’ deposits up to $100,000. Increasing this cap will restore much-needed confidence in our troubled financial institutions.
The bill’s mental health parity provision will allow those in need to seek mental health services. Mental health problems are one of the leading reasons for days missed in the workplace, so this provision will help hard working Arizonans seek necessary treatment so they can continue contributing to our economy.
Congress has more work to do to fix this problem and the underlying regulatory problems that contributed to this mess. I will fight for strict oversight of how the rescue plan is administered by the Treasury Department so that taxpayers will ultimately get a return on their money. This is the first of many votes that we will cast to restore fiscal discipline and regulation to the financial markets.
Tim Bee, Republican congressional candidate challenging U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
“When Congress had a chance to stand up and do the right things for the American people, they didn’t. The proposed bail-out couldn’t pass earlier this week. Ms. Giffords voted against it because she wanted “adequate taxpayer protections” and complained that the legislation was rushed.
“Well, this new legislation epitomizes the systematic problems in Washington. Instead of addressing the crisis and passing sensible legislation that would protect the taxpayer and not bail out Wall Street on the backs of Main Street, a broken Washington saw an opportunity.
“Washington (and the incumbent) seized an opportunity to pile on the American taxpayer.
“They added pork for wooden arrows, racetracks, rum, bicyclists and Hollywood studios to name a few.
“Our Congresswoman Giffords wouldn’t stand by and say ‘no!’ to the pork. She added her own. I support the extension of the solar tax credits. These are tax credits that are important, but can pass on their own without bailing out Wall Street. Her vote to roll over taxpayers was bought with tax credits that a real leader would have passed months ago as part of an all-of-the-above energy package.
“This bill should be about protecting our taxpayer, stabilizing our markets and strengthening our economy. It should not be about how much more pork barrel spending you can get away with.
“Southern Arizonans deserve someone that will stand up for them and do the right things. ”
U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.
“Given the continued shortcoming of this legislation, in regards to homeowner and taxpayer protections, I voted No on this package.
“This vote was possibly one of the most difficult if not the most difficult vote I have ever had to take.
“The crisis we are facing is real and Congress had to do something to relieve the economic pressure.
“I did not feel that HR 1424 was the appropriate vehicle. It did not do enough to safeguard taxpayers, no strong oversight, too much latitude for the secretary of the Treasury, and a unresolved repayment of the $700 billion.
“I sincerely hope that the action taken by Congress (Friday) does in fact, stabilize the economy. The last thing I want to do is say, ‘I told you so.’
“Nevertheless, the next Congress and the new president have much work to do. We must work on special protection for homeowners, deal with a huge deficit, clean up Wall Street corruption and put in regulatory control over our market.
“The work ahead of us needs to be done. I look forward working with the next administration on real change.”