Coble among those who changed vote on financial bailout

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
The $700 billion economic bailout of the financial industry, approved Friday by Congress, scored a narrow 2-1 victory among the U.S. House members who represent Rowan and Cabarrus counties.
U.S. Reps. Mel Watt, a Democrat, and Howard Coble, a Republican, voted for the measure, going with the final 263-171 majority. Coble changed his vote from Monday, when the bailout plan was voted down.
The districts of Watt and Coble combine to cover Rowan County.
U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes, a Republican whose 8th District includes Cabarrus County, voted against the bailout again Friday.
Hayes said the package changed for the better with the inclusion of the higher Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. coverage and some tax cuts that might spur investment.
“However,” Hayes said, “the bill contains a troubling provision that allows foreign-based banks or investment firms to have just as much access to U.S. dollars as American companies.”
Hayes said he fought to have the provision changed, but it wasn’t.
“Ultimately, I voted ‘no’ out of continued concern that U.S. tax money in this program would be diverted from the intended goal of strengthening our economy,” Hayes said.
Coble said changes in the bailout plan, the economy and even the e-mails and calls coming into his office persuaded him to change his vote to the “yes” column.
Speaking on the House floor, Coble said going back to the drawing board after Monday’s house defeat of the plan led to a better bill.
He said the increase of the FDIC threshold to $250,000 was a good move.
The Securities and Exchange Commission also is supposed to be addressing the market-to-market issue, which is a good approach, Coble said.
“Compelling arguments can be proffered on both sides of the issue,”Coble said, “but I believe that inaction is not an option.”
Coble said the defeat of the first House bill persuaded him that “Main Street, and not just Wall Street, was in trouble.”
“The unstable financial markets are causing substantial losses to the retirement accounts of working Americans and current retirees,” Coble said. “If steps are not taken to protect these investments, it is likely that retirees will have insufficient funds to remain independent of government programs such as subsidized housing, Medicaid, food stamps and other health care needs.”
Coble said he hoped the bailout legislation would bring some stability to the credit markets and give businesses and individuals the certainty they need.
Coble said a key addition to the legislation was the inclusion of a bill dealing with mental health parity. It will require mental health and substance-related disorder benefits to be included in employer-sponsored health care plans in the same way surgical benefits are provided..
The mental health parity requirements apply to group health plans with 51 or more employees.
Watt voted for the economic rescue package both times. The difference in the bill Friday, he said, was the increase in the FDIC insurance coverage from $100,000 to $250,000.
“I support this change because it will help stabilize the economy and banks by addressing customer fears that have resulted in runs on a number of banks,” Watt said in a statement.
The country had no choice but to try to address “the credit and economic crisis that we are in the middle of,” Watt said.
Watt said the legislation addresses all the major concerns about the Bush administration’s original proposal by providing phased release of the funds, substantial oversight and accountability, relief for homeowners under threat of being foreclosed and a process for full recovery of all taxpayer money.
The other parts of the bill which had been added by the Senate represent things he had previously supported and voted for in bills already passed by the House, Watt said.
Coble said it was one of the more controversial issues he has faced since being elected to Congress in 1984.
“When we add up all of the phone calls, e-mails, faxes and personal visits,” Coble said, “the 6th District was about evenly divided in how I should vote. When I cast my first vote, the sentiment was 9-1 in opposition.”