Welch’s vote for bailout bill becomes issue in U.S. House race

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(Host) The passage of a $700 billion bail out bill last week has become a key issue in this year’s U.S. House race in Vermont.

Progressive candidate Thomas Hermann says Congressman Peter Welch was wrong to vote for the legislation. But Welch says the bill is an important first step to help restore the country’s financial system.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) When the legislation first came up in the House last week, Welch voted against it because he said it didn’t provide enough protection for taxpayers. The House rejected the bill.

Then the Senate rewrote part of the legislation to include an extension of middle class tax cuts and Welch voted for the revised version last Friday.

Progressive U.S. House candidate Thomas Hermann says Welch should have voted no a second time:

(Hermann) "It doesn’t offer any prevention from this happening again it doesn’t address the immediate problem and it doesn’t protect taxpayers; essentially what this 700 billion plus bill did is throw money at the top to free up lines of credit for the financial institutions to borrow from each other."

Hermann says the recent drop of stock prices on Wall Street is a clear signal that many people don’t have confidence in this bailout bill:

(Hermann) "I really believe that the market’s an indicator as far as they thought about the bill we’ve had what was it a 400 point drop the first day and it just kept dropping every day since…there’s not a lot of confidence in the market and in the world economy as well."

Welch is defending his vote. He says the revised bill is the beginning of a long process to restore stability to the financial system:

(Welch) "We’re in unprecedented territory here the credit markets are freezing up that’s something that’s unique it hasn’t happened since the Depression …now we’re not going to be able to dig our way out of this just with the passing of a single bill; we’ve got to get back to a basic economic strategy that focuses on building the middle class and rewards work and production not speculation and market manipulations."

Welch says he also supports efforts to bring Congress back into session after the November election to pass a second economic stimulus package:

(Welch) "We’ve got projects – highway projects, bridge projects here in Vermont that are on the shelf that could be funded with a second stimulus package; we could provide in a stimulus package some help on the Medicaid match to take pressure off our state budget and ultimately pressure off our property taxpayers who are going to be feeling it pretty hard."

Welch says a second stimulus package should also include an extension of unemployment benefits and an expansion of the food stamp program.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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