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Rep. Emanuel Discusses Democrats' Vote On Bailout

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

We're joined now by Congressman Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat of Illinois. He's the chair of the Democratic Caucus. Thanks for being with us.

RAHM EMANUEL: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: Congressman, on Monday, you had 60 percent of the Democratic Caucus voting yes on the bailout bill. How many more Democrats do you think you can bring over now?

EMANUEL: Well, look, I mean, as you know, Monday, we did 60 percent of our caucus, as you said. We've got a number of individuals who are - as everybody is coming back from the Jewish holiday, a number of individuals have said, having heard from constituents and evaluated the bill and the new bill, are now going from no to yes. How many more? You won't really know until tonight when we sit down as members of the caucus and talk, but I feel that the momentum is moving towards some people going from no to yes.

BLOCK: You think it'll be higher than 60 percent?

EMANUEL: Look, I'm happy with the 140 we produced.

BLOCK: So you're saying it's on the Republican side to bring over more votes?

EMANUEL: Well, I mean, yeah. I do think so. They were supposed to bring 100 last time and do that. And we've added, as you know, a series of tax cuts, both for middle class families as well as for alternative energy industries that are creating jobs throughout the country, and that should, I would think, entice a number of people to be for this legislation that weren't before.

BLOCK: If the bill does get through the House tomorrow, are you saying that, essentially, it will get through because Republicans come over to support it in greater numbers as opposed to more Democrats?

EMANUEL: Oh, no. I mean, no. I think you'll see Democrats do their job. We came - Monday, we came suited up ready for game. We're going to do that tomorrow, as well. I think the key part here is that we always said it took two to tango, and the Republicans know that.

BLOCK: You know, in the process of the Senate adding sweeteners to this bill, they also added a whole slew of tax breaks. It's anything from alternative energy credits, breaks for Hurricane Ike victims, they extended the rum tax rebate for Puerto Rico. Do you think those are going to lose you votes among fiscally conservative, so called Blue Dog Democrats in the House, who say we don't have revenue to pay for this stuff?

EMANUEL: Melissa, I think the general basis of both the alternative minimum tax as well as the energy tax for wind, solar and other renewable energy sources is key. There are provisions I wish the Senate hadn't added, and it would have been smart not to. On the other hand, we are where we are. The overall structure, both the economic rescue package as well as the tax cuts for middle class and alternative energy businesses, are the right thing to do. And I think that's a powerful punch.

BLOCK: But for fiscal conservatives in your party who want to pay as you go, what's your message to them?

EMANUEL: We should have had a different philosophy for the last seven years that added four trillion dollars to the nation's debt. And they have been right to call this entire strategy of basically running up a charge card wrong. I always remind people wherever I go, about 2001, Vice President Cheney said deficits don't matter. And boy, has this administration lived by that creed.

BLOCK: But does this make it worse?

EMANUEL: Look, a lot of this, the energy stuff is paid for, OK? Number two is the research and development tax credit is paid for, not fully, but one year. I think the objective of this credit, $700 billion program, you know, I've talked to Warren Buffet personally. He's a friend, and he told me he thought he was almost certain we could make money on this. Barron's magazine thought that. Whether you do or don't, we have the protections in there, so taxpayers will be treated like investors rather than like a bank account just for borrowing.

BLOCK: How much arm twisting are you going through right now?

EMANUEL: Well, I wouldn't call it arm twisting. I'm trying first the persuasive skills I developed when I was in college.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Some would call that arm twisting, congressman.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EMANUEL: I think, look, I think members know the consequence of this vote, and you came here to do big things. This is a big vote. It's an attempt to restore the confidence that the markets need while providing the protections the public market needs, known as our constituents. And that this is an important vote, and we have to get it done.

BLOCK: Congressman Emanuel, thanks for talking with us.

EMANUEL: Thanks.

BLOCK: That's Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the chair of the Democratic Caucus. 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.

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