Rejected once amid public fury about bailing out reckless financiers, a $700 billion rescue package is getting a second chance in the House as voters anxiously ponder an economic meltdown that could wipe out their ability to borrow, plunder their savings and put them out of work.
Republicans and Democrats were jumping aboard the bailout as the House sped toward a make-or-break vote — a much-anticipated do-over after the plan met with a stunning defeat Monday, triggering a historic stock market plunge.
It was still unclear, though, whether leaders would have the dozen or so supporters needed to pass the measure.
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One thing was unmistakable: the economy is in trouble. The Labor Department reported Friday that employers slashed payrolls by 159,000 in September, the most in more than five years. The figures also show that many more people left the labor force for any number of reasons. The Dow Jones industrials futures rose 25 to 10,582 after being down amid the announcement of Well Fargo & Co.'s agreement to purchase Wachovia Bank.
The plan likely to be voted on in the House would allow the government to spend billions of dollars to buy bad mortgage-related securities and other devalued assets from troubled financial institutions. If it works, advocates say, that would allow frozen credit to begin flowing again and prevent a serious recession.
Black lawmakers said personal calls from Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama helped switch them from "no" to "yes," as Republicans and Democrats alike said appeals from credit-starved small businessmen and the Senate's addition of $110 billion in tax breaks and other sweeteners had persuaded them to drop their opposition.
"I hate it," but "inaction to me is a greater danger to our country than this bill," said GOP Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee, one of the 133 House Republicans who joined 95 Democrats in rejecting the measure Monday, sending the stock market plummeting.
Others said they were agonizing as they decided whether to change course and back the largest government intervention in markets since the Great Depression. "I'm trying desperately to get to 'yes,'" said Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.
Obama and his Republican rival, John McCain, phoned reluctant lawmakers for their help.
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., told a closed-door meeting of House Democrats that he would support the bill after speaking with Obama about it.
Congressional leaders worked over wayward colleagues wherever they could find them.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, said Thursday there was a "good prospect" of approving the measure but stopped short of predicting passage.
"I'm going to be pretty confident that we have sufficient votes to pass this before we put it on the floor," Hoyer said.
Lawmakers were expecting to use at least some of 90 minutes scheduled for debate in choreographed question-and-answer sessions known as "colloquies," in which lawmakers ask for assurances about what the legislation will or won't do. That could make it easier for people switching their votes to explain why they did so.
The top Republican vote-counter, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, did predict the measure would be approved.
President Bush said "a lot of people are watching" the House and was calling dozens of lawmakers searching for support for the rescue, a spokesman said.
Slowly but surely, converts were coming forward.
GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, said she was switching her "no" vote to a "yes" after the Senate added some $110 million in tax breaks and other sweeteners before approving the measure Wednesday night.
"Monday what we had was a bailout for Wall Street firms and not much relief for taxpayers and hard-hit families," Ros-Lehtinen told The Associated Press. "Now we have an economic rescue package."