Perhaps the most complete description of the evolving plans for Senate voting this evening on the bailout plan is at CQ Politics. The entire article is worth reading and probably will be updated throughout the day as more information becomes available. I’m particularly interested in an amendment that will be offered by Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont. In discussing the need for this amendment, Sanders first describes the situation as he sees it:

Sanders has said that if the Congress concludes that it is necessary to pass the greatest government intervention in history, the cost of a bailout should not be shouldered by the middle class “given the fact that the middle class is declining while the wealthiest people in this country have made out like bandits during the years President Bush has been in office.”

Among the wealthiest Americans are the tycoons that ran many of what’s left of the Wall Street financial institutions lining up for bailouts.

One of them is now the Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson. He was chief executive of the Wall Street financial behemoth Goldman Sachs. In 2005, Paulson received a $38 million bonus. At the time, it was the largest bonus ever given to a Wall Street CEO.

That sets the stage for the Sanders amendment and why he thinks it is important:

Sanders has argued — to Paulson and others — that those who caused the problem and stand to benefit the most from a government rescue should be the ones to pay for any bailout. The senator has suggested a five-year, 10 percent surtax on individuals making more than $500,000 a year and couples with incomes of more than $1 million. The surtax would yield $300 billion to cover losses the government could incur when it resells troubled mortgages it acquires from banks.

If a bailout is urgently needed, Sanders said, “Let Mr. Paulson and his friends pay for it, not people in Vermont making $30,000 a year.”

Returning to the CQ Politics article, we find that Reid has arranged for it to take 60 votes to approve the bailout plan. I like this because it means that more than a token number of Republican votes will be required for the bill to pass. Similarly, it will take 60 votes for amendments to the bill that will be brought up. The lone exception among amendments is the Sanders amendment, which will be subject to a voice vote.

As I understand the voice vote process in the Senate, the outcome of such a vote is determined by the Presiding Officer when the vote is taken. If Reid appoints a Presiding Officer for that vote who is in favor of the amendment, then it appears likely to be included.Is Harry Reid going to make sure this amendment is part of the bill that will be voted on tonight? If so, he is placing Republicans in the Senate in a very uncomfortable position that will make for very interesting political theater. Get your popcorn now.

Jim White

Jim White

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