Challengers say no to planned bailout — vulnerable incumbents follow suit

Congressional candidates across the country lashed out at Congress’s $700 billion bailout package even before the House rejected it Monday, highlighting the political pressure faced by many of the members who ultimately sent the package to its defeat.

Challengers and open-seat candidates were the quickest to denounce the package as inadequate, and some are already up with ads on the topic.

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While House Republicans were the most averse to the package, candidates of both parties were saying no to the bailout before the vote.

Democrats who came out against the bill were casting it as President Bush’s proposal, even as congressional Democrats spearheaded the final measure.

In the end, the vast majority of vulnerable incumbents voted against the bill, including a slew of freshman Democrats, three of the four House members running for Senate, and almost all vulnerable Republicans.

Among the first Democratic candidates to say no to the bill were Oklahoma Senate candidate Andrew Rice, New York congressional candidate Dan Maffei, and Miami-area congressional candidate Raul Martinez.

Rice, who is running against Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeBroad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa Lawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown Senators take oath for impeachment trial MORE (R), said the package didn’t do enough to rein in so-called “golden parachutes” — large compensation for CEOs of bailed-out firms.

“This bill gives too much away to the people who created these problems, without guaranteeing that it won’t happen again,” Rice said.

Maffei, who is the favorite for retiring Rep. James Walsh’s (R-N.Y.) open seat, said the proposal “simply gives President Bush too much discretion, and we have seen the disastrous effects of these kinds of policies in the past with this administration.”

Martinez echoed Maffei. He is challenging Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who wound up voting against the bill.

“The same people who rushed us to war in Iraq and rushed us into a stimulus bill that has not worked are trying to rush us into another bad idea,” Martinez said.

In Oregon, Democratic Senate challenger Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyEnvironmentalists, Oregon senators oppose DOT increasing transport of natural gas by rail Senate Democrat says he is concerned intelligence community is 'bending' Soleimani presentations Democrats conflicted over how to limit Trump's war powers MORE went up with an ad late last week criticizing Sen. Gordon Smith (R) for supporting a “trillion-dollar blank check for Wall Street.”

Smith’s campaign shot back that Merkley was criticizing legislation that didn’t even exist yet and on which Smith hadn’t even cast a vote.

Rep. Steve Kagen’s (D-Wis.) GOP opponent, former state Assembly Speaker John Gard, went up with a similar ad.

In the ad, Gard said the proposal is tantamount to “they break the rules, and Congress hands them more money.” His campaign said he would have voted no, as Kagen did.

Other GOPers expressing opposition include Rep. Chris Carney’s (D-Pa.) challenger, businessman Chris Hackett, and Rep. Nancy Boyda’s (D-Kan.) challenger, state Treasurer Lynn Jenkins. Carney and Boyda both voted no.

{mospagebreak}Very few vulnerable Republicans voted yes — most notably, Reps. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkBiden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' Why Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR MORE (Ill.), Jon Porter (Nev.) and Christopher Shays (Conn.).

A few more vulnerable Democrats voted yes, including Reps. Tim Mahoney (Fla.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.) and Paul Kanjorski (Pa.), the second-ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.

Several incumbents also spoke out against the bill before the vote took place.

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Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), facing Democrat Betsy Markey, spoke on the House floor against the bill, and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), a freshman who is fighting to keep his seat from Democrat Mark Schauer, said Monday morning that he would oppose the bailout. They both voted against the legislation.

Walberg defeated centrist Rep. Joe Schwarz (R) in 2006 on the strength of his fiscal conservatism and backing from the Club for Growth. The Club urged members to vote no on the package.

Schauer’s campaign also opposed the bill.

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), who is seeking a promotion to his state’s open Senate seat, lashed out at Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson late last week for Paulson’s time as CEO of Goldman Sachs. He suggested Paulson was the wrong man to be taking on such “broad, unchecked power.”

Pearce and his opponent, Rep. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallCitizens United decision weathers 10 years of controversy Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall Democrats vow to force third vote on Trump's border wall emergency declaration MORE (D), both voted against the bill, as did Colorado Senate candidate Rep. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDemocrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump Poll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE (D). Maine Senate candidate Rep. Tom Allen (D) voted yes.

While their day jobs forced them to go on the record Monday, most Senate candidates, whether incumbents or challengers, were keeping their counsel Monday, citing potential changes to the bill.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) said Sunday that the bill appeared to have the elements he needed in order to vote for it, but said he needed to review it.

Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) also demurred, but said he believed the proposal “gives us the best opportunity to restore confidence and stability to the credit and banking system that America’s consumers depend on every day.”

The detractors were the loudest before the vote Monday, and the majority of campaigns surveyed for this story offered no concrete answers about how they would vote — a reflection of the complexity of the issue and its politics.