Leslie Turk

Boustany reconsidering rescue vote

by Leslie Turk

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, who voted against the $700 billion rescue bill Monday, is now on the fence about the revised Senate legislation that overwhelming passed in the upper chamber Wednesday, no thanks to U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter. Both of Louisiana's senators voted down the legislation, a perplexing decision in light of its tax breaks for hurricane victims and the extension of tax incentives for businesses opening or relocating in Go Zone areas.

In explaining his opposition on KPEL Tuesday morning, Boustany noted that the House version did not have enough oversight for how the money would be spent. He told The Advocate yesterday that he has now moved from the “no” column to being undecided, in large part due to the oversight the Senate wrote into the legislation.

The Senate bill creates an oversight board made up of federal banking regulators and a special inspector general who will watch over the program with a budget of $50 million. If after five years the government has lost money on the program, the president would be required to submit a proposal for recouping the shortfall from firms that benefited from the legislation.

Boustany told The Advocate he is carefully reading through the bill, which also raises the cap on FDIC insured accounts from $100,000 to $250,000 and has more than $100 billion in tax breaks for businesses and individuals.

Though unpopular among many Americans, the measure has been widely embraced by financial experts. They say while the legislation is far from perfect, it is the best way to clear troubled assets from the books of financial institutions reeling from home foreclosures. It would begin the process of busting up our nation's huge frozen credit markets to stem the tidal wave of a deepening recession.

Here's your chance, Chuck. Do the right thing.

(Update: Congressman Boustany today voted for the legislation, known as the Emergency Economic Stabilization package, which passed the House 263-171. "The economic downturn America is beginning to realize is a result of greed and irresponsibility, and now, small businesses, responsible homeowners and Southwest Louisiana families suffer because of reckless decisions by Wall Street," Boustany said in a statement explaining his position.

"After reading this legislation and talking with experts and people across my district, I am convinced inaction at this time would hurt middle-class families. An increase in guaranteed limits for the [FDIC] will help restore public confidence in the safety of their bank deposits, and it is one important change from previous versions of this bill," he continued. "People are anxious about banks being able to honor their commitments, and I acted to provide confidence. Strong oversight of Treasury and sound safeguards will help taxpayers recoup this loan over time; this is a necessary start. While not perfect, this is a better bill that will help Southwest Louisiana keep jobs."

Boustany joined Louisiana Reps. Rodney Alexander, Jim McCrery and Charlie Melancon in supporting the rescue plan; Reps. Don Cazayoux, William Jefferson and Steve Scalise voted against it. Alexander also switched his position.)