Senate Democratic leadership is whipping its members ahead of a crucial vote on whether to release the second half of the $350 billion in bailout funds known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.
Gathering support for the deeply unpopular bill is a thankless job.
"I feel like I've been TARPed and feathered," said a weary Dick Durbin, the Democratic Whip, trudging off the Senate floor. "We're working it and it's very close at this point."
Durbin said that he's not used to dealing with as many variables as are in play today, with Democratic senators resigning (Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton), assuming office (Roland Burris) or not yet in Washington (Al Franken).
Durbin was asked if Burris, a fellow Illinois Senator that Durbin and other Democrats had tried to block from assuming office, would be with him on the TARP vote.
"I sure hope so," said Durbin, who later took to the Senate floor to welcome "my friend Roland Burris," recalling three decades of friendship.
The Senate will vote on a resolution to disapprove the release of the funds. Democratic leadership and President-elect Obama want senators to vote against the resolution.
As Congress debated the financial rescue package, shares of Citigroup and Bank of America plunged on worries that they may need to go back to the government trough.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the resurgent crisis on Wall Street was helping Democrats win support for the TARP funds.
"Before yesterday there was almost no sense of crisis. And now there is and in a certain sense it focuses people's minds on the need to do something," he said.
Despite the anxiety being felt by lawmakers, Schumer said members on both sides of the aisle were comforted by the fact that the money would be doled out by the incoming president rather than the outgoing one.
"The reason this is going to pass, is the country and senators -- both Democrats and Republicans -- have faith that Obama will handle this much better than the previous administration," said Schumer. "That's ultimately the bottom line here."
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