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Why I Voted Yes

October 6, 2008
Weekly Columns

Last week both the House and Senate passed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.   As you may imagine, this was the most difficult vote I have ever been asked to cast as an elected official.  Lyndon Johnson once said that "doing the right thing isn't hard, knowing the right thing to do is."   In the past few weeks I have heard from thousands of my constituents, and most - but by no means all - of them were opposed to this bill.  So it was pretty clear to me that voting no would have been the easy thing to do.  But I do not believe my constituents sent me to Congress to do the easy thing.  I believe they sent me to Congress to study complex issues, give thoughtful consideration to difficult challenges such as the one we voted on and to use my best judgment on their behalf. 

After studying the issue carefully and seeking the advice and counsel of economists and other experts on the American and global economy, I came to the conclusion that failure to take bold action would have resulted in a stock market collapse, frozen credit and economic catastrophe.  I was unwilling to gamble the jobs, life savings, retirement accounts and the homes and businesses of the people I was elected to represent.  Nor was I willing to risk the global, political and social turmoil that will surely occur if there is a severe and prolonged recession or depression in the United States.

As Oklahomans, we have seen more than our fair share of economic hardship over the years.  My own parents and grandparents lived through the Great Depression.  They dealt with the hard times at home and the wars abroad that it spawned.  Most of us lived through the 1980s when a banking and real estate collapse devastated Oklahoma's economy.  We saw our state's per capita income fall from 98% to 79% of the national average.  We watched hundreds of banks close, thousands of businesses fail and countless families lose their life's savings.  I was not willing to stand by and let that happen again for the sake of political popularity, ideological purity or legislative perfection.

The bill that I voted for last week was a much better bill than Treasury Secretary Paulson's original proposal.  This bill had protections for taxpayers such as a federal insurance program that will force Wall Street to share the financial burden.  According to the legislation, taxpayers will also be protected from losses, irresponsible executives will not be rewarded with "golden parachutes" or severance pay and community banks will be able to write off losses on Freddie and Fannie mortgage assets that they hold.  The bill also restricted the Treasury's immediate spending authority by half and will allow Congress to withhold the remaining $350 billion. 
Some have attempted to suggest that this legislation included earmarks and / or pork.  This is patently untrue.  What it actually included was an extension of several very popular bi-partisan tax cuts intended to strengthen the economy as well as the buying power of families and small businesses that would have otherwise been subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Finally, I heard from many of my colleagues and constituents who told me that "something must be done - but not this."  And without question, if I had my way the legislation would have looked quite a bit different.  But this legislation was brought to the House floor under rules that prevented it from being amended.  Nor was any alternative legislation brought to the floor to be considered.  I did not have the choice of voting for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 or some alternative.  My choice was to vote for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 or do nothing.  After a great deal of consideration, I came to the conclusion that voting no and doing nothing would not have been the right thing to do.