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January 16th, 2009
11:31 PM ET

Tough call: Stand with Obama or the people you represent

Dana Bash
CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent

Even Barack Obama's most ardent Senate supporters tell CNN, voting to give him 350-billion dollars more for a bailout their constituents despise, was wrenching. Says Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota, "It's easy to vote against this." She continues: "You know if you go home, to vote to help [Mister] Obama get this money, there is not going to be a parade waiting for you.

But vote for it she did. She's one of many senators the President-elect called to pitch personally. To pitch and to promise that thistime taxpayer money will be better spent.

"He's talking to a lot of us," Sen. Klobuchar says, "about how important it is to give him the tools he needs to tackle this financial crisis."

"He's also acknowledged the horrible mistakes made by the past administration," she adds.

In fact it went beyond phone-calls. Senators demanded written assurances Mister Obama would address those mistakes.. and got letters promising more transparency and accountability on how he will use bailout funds.

Democratic Senators say it was Team Obama's full-court press that scored a crucial victory on such a controversial issue.

Senator Debbie Stabnow (D-Mich.) opposed the original bailout, and told CNN earlier this week she was torn about spending billions more: "It's not enough to just have someone you trust," she said.

But she got an Obama call too..and changed her mind. "Now," she says, "people are willing to trust a new administration with a different set of priorities and values that are going to focus on getting people back to work and stay in their homes."

But the Obama power of persuasion did not work with all Democrats. "Nobody can tell us where the money is, where it's gone, what it's done," says Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. She says she was more influenced by the flood of calls from outraged constituents demanding she oppose using more taxpayer dollars to bail-out Wall Street.

Most Republicans Senators who voted for the bailout in the fall objected to releasing the rest of the money. Even John McCain, who campaigned on the need for a rescue.

They're still smarting from their election losses.

As for Democrats - they're hoping this tough vote will be a distant memory by the next elections, two years from now.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Dana Bash • Raw Politics
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. KAREN

    Im glad Bareck Obama got the money ,he has a big mess to clean up the Bush adminastraction left him war and parvedey,and good ridens to them all,they proved to the people they stood only for the welthyest,and they never cared about the middle class or poor, now we fineley have a man to stand up for us.

    January 17, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  2. xtina, chicago IL

    Barack Obama WANTS the bailout? There's nothing new under the sun...

    January 16, 2009 at 10:00 pm |
  3. Eric

    Obama's main difference is trust. He must retain the trust of the people who have seen hope in his message of change and a different way of doing business in the world. If he is not allowed to deliver on his messages with the help of all who believe there will be no difference in the future. Do we have faith even in that we can see, hear and feel and who is willing to stake all in a mutual respect?

    January 16, 2009 at 9:45 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    I'm at least glad Obama doesn't have to start his administration with a Congressional battle already underway and a veto – that would be a most inauspicious beginning. And if what OBama does do with the money actually helps the economy then most people won't fuss; so lets hope Obama has a good plan.

    January 16, 2009 at 9:39 pm |