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Senate Passes $700 Billion Rescue Package

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block. The Senate has just easily passed a sweeping measure to bail out the troubled financial industry and shore up the economy. NPR's David Welna joins us from Capitol Hill, and, David, this bill, obviously, passed easily in the Senate, nothing like what happened in the House. Why such a difference?

DAVID WELNA: Well, Melissa, I think that there's one main difference, and that is elections coming up. There are two thirds of the senators at least who do not face elections in November. Their seats are good for six years, so only a third of the Senate is renewed each time, whereas every member of the House is up for election in five weeks. And I think, in the House, they are much more skittish about this vote.

Another thing is also, there were sweeteners added to the bill that the House voted on on Monday and rejected. There are tax breaks that were added to this bill. There also is a change in the amount - the limit on federally insured deposits - bank deposits that's been raised. That's attracted more support. There's also a difference, too, that in the House, there is a leadership fight going on among Republicans there, and in many ways, that divided their caucus and was hard to get them together to vote. All those elements were not there tonight in the Senate, and therefore, you got three quarters of the Senate supporting this measure.

BLOCK: And worth noting, no surprise here, but that Senators Barack Obama, John McCain, and also Joe Biden all voted for this measure along with a bunch of strange bedfellows, people from the far left and the far right in the Senate. What was the strategy here for the Senate to jump in, have this vote before the House votes again.

WELNA: Well, the Senate actually wanted to go first before, but they deferred to the House, and then they said, well, look, you guys failed to do it, so we are going to go ahead and do it. And really, it's the House that's supposed to start with a revenue-related bill like this, but the Senate just sort of pulled rank on them, and said, look, you know, if you guys can't do it, we're going to do it, and we're going to add these things to it. There are things that the House doesn't like in this bill, House Democrats especially because they're not paid for, but they're going to send it to the House and say pass it.

BLOCK: And do you think they will?

WELNA: House leaders say they are much more confident about it passing this time on Friday, some time during the day, than they were on Monday. Still, it is not a done deal. If they don't change anything in the bill, it will stand. If they change anything, the Senate would have to vote on it again.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's David Welna on Capitol Hill. David, thanks a lot.

WELNA: You're quite welcome, Melissa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.
As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.