Udall, Salazar must back rescue bill

Two members of Congress whom Western Slope residents will be voting on this election have a second chance today. Reps. Mark Udall and John Salazar must do the right thing and vote for the revised financial bailout plan that passed the Senate Wednesday night. If they don’t and the measure fails again, voters watching their retirement savings slip away or homebuyers and consumers who find their borrowing ability obliterated should hold the two men accountable at the polls.

Both Democrats voted against the measure Monday, helping send it to a surprising defeat in the House. They weren’t the only ones, of course. And more Republicans voted against the measure Monday than Democrats. But Udall and Salazar are the only ones people in this part of Colorado will be casting ballots on this year.

Ordinary Americans can be forgiven for not understanding the complexities of the financial crisis and the intricacies of the legislation that has been proposed to fix it. Congressmen shouldn’t.

They should not have been surprised at all when their constituents told them they were opposed to the rescue legislation. By some accounts, the public response was as much as 10-1 against the measure the House rejected Monday. Those kinds of numbers make it easy for politicians who make decisions by sticking their finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.

The votes of Udall and Salazar against the rescue package tell us two things: First, they fear the wrath of their constituents, and that, to them, is more important than saving the country’s financial system. And second, they either don’t understand the severity of the problem, or they are trying to use the crisis as an opportunity to pander to voters. Neither of those scenarios is becoming of someone entrusted to help run the country.

Both Udall and Salazar said part of their opposition stemmed from the fact that the legislation didn’t do enough to help people who were struggling with their mortgages. There’s no question that many people are struggling to make mortgage payments, but that is not the problem. A collapse of the credit system is the immediate crisis, and the federal government helping out with mortgage payments will do nothing solve that problem.

Even so, the bill rejected Monday and the revised measure on which the House is to vote today include foreclosure protection, including compulsory modification of home mortgages that the federal government ends up purchasing or controlling. Apparently that fact escaped opponents of the bill such as Salazar and Udall.

The modified bill approved by the Senate includes other measures to protect consumers, such as increased FDIC insurance. It also has goodies that are aimed at winning votes from both Democrats and Republicans, including requirements for more emphasis on mental illness in health insurance plans businesses offer employees, and new tax breaks for businesses. We’re not thrilled with these sorts of additions. They should be in separate legislation, not larded into a bill that is arguably the most important piece of legislation in generations.

But it’s still critical that the bill pass. It isn’t a partisan issue. Economic observerers as diverse as conservative Ben Stein and liberal Paul Krugman say it is imperfect, but desperately needed.

And it’s critical Udall and Salazar demonstrate they are not fingers-in-the-wind politicians, but people capable of showing real leadership by supporting the bill today.


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