WASHINGTON, D.C.—By a comfortable margin — 263-171 — the House today passed an unprecedented rescue plan that aims to bail out the troubled financial industry.
Republican Rep. Jim Ramstad was the only member of Minnesota’s House delegation to reverse his vote today and vote for the $700 billion financial bailout plan, which had been rejected in the House Monday and revised for today’s vote.
Also voting for the package were Democrats Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and Jim Oberstar, and Republican John Kline. Republican Michele Bachmann and Democrats Collin Peterson and Tim Walz voted against the plan.
For Ramstad it was arguably the toughest vote of his career as he prepares to leave office after 18 years in Congress.
On Monday, Ramstad, who is retiring this year, voted against the package, calling it a plan that “imposes great risk to taxpayers and no guarantee of success.”
But soon after that vote Ramstad found his mental health parity bill, a measure that requires employers to treat mental health illnesses the same as physical illnesses in their health care plans, at the center of the bailout debate.
Along with other tax-related measures, the parity bill was added to the package passed by the Senate Wednesday night.
For days after the mental-health legislation was added to the bailout package, Ramstad weighed his choice: vote against the bailout and potentially sink his life’s work or support a plan that he simply didn’t agree with.
On Thursday, Ramstad announced his would vote for the measure. “The inclusion of [mental health] parity, tax extenders and the F.D.I.C. increases has caused me to reconsider my position,” told the New York Times.
Most insurance plans now require mental health patients to pay more of the initial costs of their care through higher deductibles and co-payments. Many insurance plans also strict limits on how often patients with mental problems can seek care. According to Associated Press, the parity legislation is expected to cost the federal government about $3.4 billion over 10 years because employers will have more health expenses that they can deduct from their income taxes.
Other provisions added
The mental health plan wasn’t the only provision that was added to the bailout package, which was defeated Monday in the House 205-228 (218 votes were needed for passage). Tax provisions and other measures were added as House leaders tried to find those extra 13 votes for passage. In the end, there were 58 more votes for the package today than the earlier version that failed.
Supporters of the package secured Ramstad’s support, but for others the tax cuts seemed only to solidify their opposition to the bill.
After today’s vote, Walz issued a statement saying he could not “in good conscience vote for this bill.”
He said he opposed the bill because it lacked a mechanism for guaranteeing that taxpayers get their money back from Wall Street and because “few if any homeowners will get mortgage relief.”
“The economic crisis facing the nation is serious and real,” said Walz. “Inaction is not an option. We must move fast to address it, but after you peel away all the extras the Senate added, this is still the same bad deal for taxpayers I voted against on Monday.”
Catharine Richert reports on developments in Congress, agriculture issues and other topics. She can be reached at crichert [at] minnpost [dot] com.