U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, was among the 205 federal lawmakers who voted Monday to support the failed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. The House denied the measure 228-205.
In a Monday afternoon statement, the congressman said his vote was not cast lightly and was not intended to protect the "fat cats on Wall Street, but to help Main Street" by stopping the decimation of savings and investments.
"It was one of the toughest votes I have ever cast," Simpson said. "I voted yes on the bill because I sincerely believe the greater risk for taxpayers is in not acting."
Simpson's general election challenger, Democrat Debbie Holmes of Boise, said she agreed with the congressman's vote.
"He did the right thing, and you've got to credit the guy when he does the right thing," she said.
Simpson said the bill for which he voted made substantial improvements over the president's initial offer, including robust protections for taxpayers, an end to so-called golden parachutes for corporate executives and limits on how the Treasury Department can use the funding made available.
"My first priority in looking at this bill was protecting taxpayers, retirees, small businesses, farmers and Idaho families from the fallout of a major economic decline," he said. "I am not sure where we go from here, but whatever course of action is required by Congress I will continue to focus on its impact on the people of Idaho, not the fat cats of Wall Street."
While she supported Simpson's vote, she condemned what she referred to as "partisan bickering" among some representatives in Washington.
"The elected representatives of our country are children and acting like they're in nursery school," she said. "They're better than to fight on partisan grounds in a time of crisis."
Holmes said the economic problem is complex, but began with deregulation of the financial markets in the 1980s "to such an extent that the greedy people of Wall Street were able to put our country in financial jeopardy in the hope for a quick profit."
"They put our country in danger as much as the terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center," Holmes said. "The time for partisan bickering has passed. We're in a time of crisis, and we need to come together. I'm not an economist but I do know that everyone who's talked to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. is white as a sheet, and they're voting for the bill."
Holmes said a vote for the bill was a vote for American financial health, even though it targeted Wall Street over average Americans.
"Most of us are on the ship with them," she said. "If we don't fix it we'll sink, too."
Idaho District 1 representative, Republican Bill Sali, voted against the bailout plan.