Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) was always well-liked by conservatives in and outside Michigan. But last week he earned a special place in their hearts, as the freshman lawmaker voted twice against the $700 financial bailout package passed by the House and signed by President Bush last week. Although 25 Republicans and 33 Democrats who had initially voted to kill the package switched to “aye,” Walberg remained “no.”
Walberg’s re-election situation in the 7th District (Battle Creek) is pretty tough. Two years after unseating a moderate Republican in the primary (and one who has yet to endorse him), Walberg faces the fight of his life from State Senate Democratic leader Mark Schauer. In addition, conservative stalwart Walberg is running at a time when John McCain’s presidential campaign has pulled out of the Water Wonderland in a nationally-publicized exit. As Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson put it, “McCain threw the Republican Party here under the bus.”
So what does this endangered Republican lawmaker think?
“90% of my mail and e-mails were against what they perceived as a bailout of Wall Street,” Walberg told me between campaign stops yesterday, “They saw it as increasing the deficit by $700 billion. So did I, especially with the earmarks that were added. And I felt that giving [Secretary of the Treasury] Hank Paulson control of that much money and that power without direction on how to use them was the wrong way to go.”
Walberg faulted the Administration for not listening to Bill Isaac, the former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation head under Ronald Reagan, who had spoken to lawmakers of both parites and urged a solution to the financial crisis that rolled more capital into the institutions but did not hand all the authority to the Treasury Department that the eventual bailout package did. The Michiganian also said that he might have been more sympathetic to the package “if it included a capital gains tax cut or a moratorium on capital gains taxes. And it could well have included a repeal of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which in effect forced banks to lend to people who could not pay mortgages.”
“But instead, we approached this in a socialistic way.”
As to voter response, the congressman said he had come from an address to a senior citizens center where “folks kept saying thank you for saying no to Congress spending more of our money.” He added that his Democratic opponent Schauer has said he would have voted the same way as Walberg on the bailout and “I wish taken that attitude about some of his votes in the state senate.”