Bailout passed 263-171. Coverage here. Chambliss and Isakson were in Macon this morning. Filed this for the main site:
MACON - Sens. Johnny Isaskson and Saxby Chambliss flew around the state Friday to make their case for the federal mortgage crisis bailout, stopping in Macon just hours before the U.S. House of Representatives passed the package by agreeing with Senate proposals.
Neither man considered the $700 billion bill, which also includes $110 billion in tax and spending provisions, perfect legislation. But doing nothing was not an option, they said, and using taxpayer money to purchase toxic debt from financial entities should stem a credit crisis that threatens to cripple America's economy.
And, while neither could promise that the taxpayers would get all their money back, they said the cash infusion is an investment that will show returns, not a straight bailout of Wall Street firms.
"No, we can't say that 100 cents will, ultimately be paid on this debt," Chambliss said. "We can tell you that 100 cents out of every dollar that is repaid on these toxic loans will come to the government. And I think there's a good chance that, over the long haul, that all of this money could be paid back. But we can't guarantee that.
Isakson said there are safeguards in place so that if, after 5 years, the federal treasury hasn't made its money back, the president must submit a plan to recover the rest of the money from the people the various securities were purchased from.
"So you have fail-safe provisions in there to give us... every chance, if there is a loss or a shortfall, to go back and recover it over time," Isakson said.
The bailout has been a tough political issue for Chambliss, who is suddenly in what could be a tight race this year against Democratic challenger Jim Martin. Polling has shown Martin within striking distance of Chambliss recently, despite the fact that Georgia is typically considered a heavily Republican state.
Chambliss said calls to his office have been overwhelmingly against the bailout plan, which Martin criticized this week as "a typical Washington solution" that "fails to address the fundamental problems created by the deregulation of Wall Street," according to a Georgia Public Broadcasting report.
Chambliss said his vote for the bill was not about politics, but "what kind of America my children and my grandchildren are going to enjoy from an economic standpoint."
"My opponent said he's opposed to it," Chambliss said in Macon Friday. "So he's in favor of sticking his head in the sand, allowing the stock market to tank like it did Monday. I'm not in favor of that."
Rhetoric like that puts retired Air Force General Rick Goddard in an interesting position. The Republican nominee to face U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall in the 8th Congressional District, Goddard came out strong this week against the bailout, attacking Marshall for his yes vote.
Shortly before Chambliss and Isakson took the podium in Macon, Houston County Commissioner Tom McMichael, a Republican from Goddard's home county, told Chambliss "I'm with you on your decision and I'm mad at Rick."
"Talk to him about it," Chambliss replied.
Libertarian Allen Buckley is also facing Chambliss in the November general election.
I would have voted against the bill, obviously. ... " he said Friday. "I think the thing could have been done so that the people who are responsible for this mess are the only ones potentially at risk."