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Senate Takes Up Bailout Bill

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. This morning, the gavel fell, and the day of the great do-over began.

(Soundbite of gavel)

Unidentified Man: Good morning. The Senate will come to order. The Chaplain, Dr. Barry Black, will lead the Senate in prayer.

SIEGEL: The deal that was done at the urging of the White House and came undone in the House of Representatives is now to be redone by the senators with the usual assist from the chaplain.

Pastor BARRY BLACK (Chaplain): Give our lawmakers, today, the prophet of wise decisions that will bless our land.

SIEGEL: And one theme for senators who spoke early today was how much of our land is in financial peril and in need of credit. Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat, insisted this package is not just for Wall Street.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Majority Leader): This isn't for Lower Manhattan. This is for people in Elko, Nevada, Reno, Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada. This is for people to keep their jobs, to be able to buy a car, and get a loan to take care of that car, so a car dealer will be able to do as they have done for decades, to borrow money to buy cars so they have cars to sell. Right now, they can't do that. I got a call yesterday from a car dealer in Las Vegas saying I can't buy any cars. People - inventory we have, if somebody buys a car, most of them can't get a loan, and it's going to get worse, not better, unless we do something.

SIEGEL: From Missouri Senator Kit Bond, the same theme. The people who stand to be rescued by the bill are not on Wall Street, but on Main Street. They could even be the people paving Main Street.

Senator KIT BOND (Republican, Missouri): Today, I was advised that the State of Missouri cannot issue bonds to build highways. The State of Maine is, also, having trouble. Local governments cannot get loans. There is no money available in the credit markets for municipal bonds at reasonable rates. There is a threat that workers will not get their paychecks if businesses or payroll companies cannot get the loans they need.

SIEGEL: Presidential candidate Barack Obama voiced a similar sentiment, pledging his vote for the bill. John McCain is expected to do the same. And although there has been opposition by some senators on both sides of the aisle, the Senate, which was designed to resist the political passions of the moment, appears poised to approve the administration's plan. It is an approval drenched in resignation, not enthusiasm, and full of allusions to holding one's nose into the unpleasant sight of making sausage. Today's metaphors range from the athletic to the surgical to the meteorological.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): This is a sink or swim moment for our country, and we cannot merely catch our breath. We must swim for the shores.

Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): We have a patient who has suffered a severe wound. They are bleeding profusely. We are going to try to put a tourniquet on that patient so that we can stabilize their condition...

Senator MAX BAUCUS (Democrat, Montana): A cloud hangs over the American economy. It's a cloud made up of a thousand failures, and it is casting a shadow over our country.

SIEGEL: Imagery from Senators Hillary Clinton, Democrat of New York, Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, and Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana. No one said this is a great bill. Majority Leader Reid summed it up this way.

Senator REID: Every member of this Senate could do a, write a better bill than we probably have here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.