Area House members unswayed by new bailout plan

Adriana Colindres

U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood voted yes earlier this week on a proposed $700 billion financial-industry bailout plan, and he hasn't changed his mind on the revised version that the House is expected to consider Friday.

Three other federal lawmakers representing parts of central Illinois say they, too, are sticking to their guns and will vote as they did before on the previous legislation.

Like LaHood, Democratic U.S. Rep. Phil Hare of Rock Island also supports the plan. But Reps. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, and John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, oppose the bailout.

It isn’t clear how U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Morris, will vote. Weller, who is not seeking re-election, was the only member of the U.S. House to miss the first bailout vote Monday. A statement from his office said he was attending to a "family matter," according to The Associated Press.

A Weller spokesman didn't return a phone message on Thursday.

The House rejected the bailout proposal Monday, with 205 lawmakers favoring it and 228 opposing it.

LaHood, R-Peoria, said changes the Senate made to the legislation before passing it should help attract extra "yes" votes. One change would raise to $250,000 -- instead of $100,000 -- the limit on how much money the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insures in bank accounts. The new plan also includes a provision that requires health insurance plans to cover mental health ailments the same way they cover physical ailments.

"I think they've included some things that could help us in the House, get the votes that we need in order to pass it," LaHood said. "It's just absolutely imperative that we pass this, for the housing market, for the mortgage market, for the banking industry, for average citizens who have seen their 401Ks diminished."

Hare said he is "cautiously optimistic" the measure, which he views as a loan rather than a bailout, will pass the House today (Friday).

"I think given where we're at, it's something that we've got to do," he said.

Shimkus doesn't agree.

"I'm a no. I haven't moved," he said. "It fundamentally destroys, or has the possibility of destroying, the free market system in this country."

That system, he said, is based on the premise that risk-takers who succeed get rewarded, but those who fail will lose.

"The risk of losing it all helps dampen down risky behavior," he said, adding that government bailouts would encourage further risky behavior.

The legislation places too much power with an "unelected bureaucrat," the U.S. treasury secretary, Shimkus said.

Johnson spokesman Phil Bloomer said the congressman also won't veer from his earlier "no" vote.

"He's even more angry about it than he was before," Bloomer said, citing the legislation's inclusion of "special interest tax breaks" such as one targeting rum production in Puerto Rico.

Adriana Colindres can be reached