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What Today's Bailout Vote Says About the New Senate

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The Senate today voted to give Wall Street another $350 billion today. The vote tells us a lot about the new Senate (you can see the full tally here - and remember, on this vote, a "yes" vote was a vote against releasing the $350 billion bailout tranche).

For instance, both Tom and Mark Udall (D-CO), who voted against the bailout in the House when running for the Senate, switched their votes to support the bailout. You may recall that Mark Udall said he was against the bailout not because he didn't trust George Bush, but specifically because he was against voting for a bill that had no oversight measures. And yet now he's voting for the same bailout that includes no new oversight measures. This suggests that the Udalls (like lots of political aristocracy) have absolutely no principles - that, in fact, they are the worst stereotype of politicians: The kind of people who go populist when facing election, and then goes corporatist when he's comfortably insulated in Washington.

Same thing for Jeff Merkley - he issued a very strong statement against the bailout as a candidate for Senate (again, not because he didn't trust Bush, but because he said he was conceptually against giving away money to Wall Street), and then voted for the bailout today. Again, this suggests Merkley - who I was previously convinced was a principled working-class populist - is starting his Senate career epitomizing the worst kinds of images people have of politicians - those who sound like they're for "the folks" at election time, and then who sell out "the folks" once in Washington.

So what we've learned is that lots of our new senators - even those who campaigned as populists - are already under the spell of "the most exclusive club in the world." And frankly, I don't care what their public explanations are. These are people who made airtight declarations against the bailout on a conceptual level - and then walked away from those declarations when it came time to vote. We've learned (once again) that if there's not constant pressure on lawmakers to respect the most basic campaign declarations they made, they will sell us out.

So what do we do now? Well first and foremost, we thank our lucky stars that there remain a core group of progressive senators who stuck to their guns. And then we focus on the House. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) gives us our marching orders in this Bloomberg News story:

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said he has "some doubt" Congress will approve his legislation setting terms for releasing $350 billion of financial-rescue funds because the White House's mishandling of the first half of the money has created a lack of confidence.

"The Bush administration did such a bad job of administering the first $350 billion," said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, in a Bloomberg Television interview today. "There's a great deal of anger in the country" over the way the funds were handled.

So this means if you don't want to see your tax dollars once again given away to Wall Street fat cats, you have to get in touch with your House member ASAP and tell them to stop the kleptocracy. Make your voice heard.