Profiles in Courage: Obama's Freshman Democratic Senators
3:20 PM, Jan 16, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
Of seven newly minted freshman Democratic senators, six voted for releasing the second half of the $700 billion TARP funds in what is being considered Obama's first major test of strength on the Hill. This would be rather uncontroversial had not five of them, to some degree or another, campaigned against the original, unpopular bailout bill to win their seats.
The most flagrant offender is Jeff Merkley, who ran an ad against his opponent Gordon Smith harping on the bailout:
At the time of the first vote, Merkley commended fellow Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden for voting against the bill. Wyden, who is facing reelection in 2010, voted against releasing the second half of the bailout, too. Of the eight Democrats who Obama lost on the vote, five are up for reelection in 2010, and these kind of poll numbers were presumably more persuasive than The One himself.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Co.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) both voted against the bailout when they were in the House and running for Senate, but backed Obama's plea for $350 billion last night. Mark voted against both versions of the bill in the House, claiming that the oversight rules for the TARP money were not enough to satisfy him. As of just six days ago, even the watchdog panel appointed to oversee the TARP money agreed that the program needed more oversight before the second half was released:
Tom Udall similarly slammed both versions of the bailout bill only to okay the second half this week:
Merkley and both Udalls are taking flak from the Left for their votes, with David Sirota claiming the votes signify that they "have absolutely no principles - that, in fact, they are the worst stereotype of politicians."
Mark Begich, who defeated Sen. Ted Stevens in Alaska, was more tepid in his denouncement of the bailout, but nonetheless used it to distance himself from President Bush and the current Congress, offering the refrain that it didn't do enough for Main Street.
Kay Hagan, who took down Liddy Dole in N.C., repeatedly dodged taking a position on the bailout during the campaign before finally putting out a press release after the bailout vote in the Senate indicating she would have voted "no":
Dole voted against the bailout.