Added provisions help convince California's senators to approve bailout

WASHINGTON -- The Senate added hundreds of pages and unrelated sweeteners to an already massive financial rescue package.

It helped convince California's senators, both of whom said they would vote for the $700 billion bailout legislation Wednesday night.

But the revisions have not swayed San Joaquin Valley lawmakers one way or another.

The Valley's House members who supported the bailout plan on Monday still think it's necessary. The region's representatives who opposed the House's 110-page package think the Senate's new 451-page version is no better than the original.

"It's garbage," said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia. "They're trying to put more decorations on the Christmas tree, but the problem is the Christmas tree."

On the flip side, Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, said Wednesday that he believes the Senate bill is a "better package" that includes "some positive things."

Nunes opposed the $700 billion bailout Monday. Radanovich, after originally voting no, later switched to become one of 65 House Republicans to support the bill. On Friday, they will get another chance to reiterate their positions.

The House and Senate bailout fundamentals remain essentially the same. So does its unpopularity among voters. Through early Wednesday afternoon, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office reported receiving 91,004 e-mails, telephone calls and letters concerning the bailout legislation. Of these, 93 percent voiced opposition.

What's changed between the House and Senate bills, in part, is the addition of unrelated provisions. California's rural schools secure funding, farmers and filmmakers get tax breaks and, among other things, the manufacturers of "wooden arrows designed for use by children" save money under the revised Senate bill.

The rural schools provision, for instance, guarantees funding to counties like Fresno, Tulare and Tuolumne that have significant national forest holdings. The provision sustains a funding formula that in 2006 delivered $69 million for rural California counties.

"I think it will help with Republican votes," Radanovich said of the so-called Secure Rural Schools Act.

Boxer and Feinstein both stressed the importance of the underlying bailout bill, with Feinstein's press secretary, Scott Gerber, saying the senator "believes that the livelihood of Californians is threatened by the economic crisis, and this is much better than the original (three-page Treasury Department) proposal."

Boxer praised the Senate bill for increasing federal protection of bank deposits, among other revisions. She cited warnings that failure to approve the bill would cramp California's ability to finance its own public projects.

"California desperately needs access to short-term borrowing from banks," Boxer said.

The myriad Senate additions are also designed, in part, to convince at least 12 House members to change their minds and approve the bailout that was rejected Monday by a 228-205 margin. The Valley's congressmen are staying put.

Democratic Reps. Dennis Cardoza of Merced and Jim Costa of Fresno are sticking with the bailout that the White House and congressional leaders call economically essential. Cardoza said he still supports the package although he said it was "quite irksome" that the Senate added unpaid-for provisions.

"We've been hearing, 'You've got to get this done,'" Cardoza said. "(Constituents) are not supportive of any particular package, they're in support of Congress getting its act together."

Cardoza noted that his "BlackBerry was vibrating off of my kitchen table" and that he has been hearing from "everybody that has my personal e-mail address. Some constituent contacts have been spontaneous; others appear to have been mobilized."

Nunes said that although "90 percent of all my callers oppose" the bailout, he began hearing Tuesday from senior business leaders who were insistent that the bailout must pass. In some cases, Nunes said, he considered the calls part of an organized pressure campaign. Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, he said, congressional leaders were "breaking arms" in search of the votes they needed.

"They may get the votes," Nunes said, "but it's going to be a debacle."

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