WASHINGTON — Rep. George Radanovich, R-Calif., voted against the $700 billion bailout bill before he voted for it.
Radanovich's mid-stream switch was not enough to change the outcome of the closely watched vote, which more than one House member called "historic" today. Radanovich's flip, though, did suggest the kind of roiling political cross-currents that left congressional delegations sharply divided.
"This is a bill that no one wanted to vote for," Radanovich said afterward. "I would have loved to vote against it, but in the end we couldn't afford not to do something."
Radanovich's switch occurred during a tumultuous period on the House floor, after the standard 17-minute voting period had expired and congressional leaders from both sides were furiously trying to find last-minute converts. Several GOP members, who were opposed to the bill, described the one-on-one lobbying as extraordinarily intense.
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"They're breaking arms in there," exclaimed Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in an assessment shared nearly verbatim with another California Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes.
Radanovich, though, insisted that no one from the Republican leadership talked to him about switching his vote, and he said he made up his mind on his own without being leaned on. He said he came to the House floor prepared to vote for the bill if that was needed to help it pass.
"I was not lobbied," Radanovich said.
The experiences of California's delegation offered a an inside look at how the Bush administration tried to win approval of the bill.
Bush administration officials kept offering Rep. Devin Nunes, who opposed the bill from the start, a chance to talk to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson or Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, or anyone at all who might be persuasive. Nunes declined the opportunity, saying he was prepared to oppose the package once he read it Sunday.
"We should not be propping up the stock market and interfering in the marketplace," Nunes said.
Bill supporter Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a Democratic member of the powerful House Rules Committee, was carrying around in his jacket pocket a folded-up list identifying Democrats who had committed to voting for the bill. He was up past midnight Sunday with the rules committee considering the 100-plus page package.
"I feel like I have to throw up that we have to do this," Cardoza said, but then stressed that the alternative of inaction is even worse.
Fellow Democrat Rep. Jim Costa was dire in his assessment.
"The lending and credit crises in our nation have us on the edge of this cliff," Costa said, "and if we don't pass this, there's a real possibility that this recession will turn into a depression."
Costa and Cardoza both said they had talked to community bankers throughout California, and found widespread support for the bailout. They spoke cautiously though, for fear of further spreading public fear about the stability of specific banks.