From the Wall Street Journal:
The Senate handily passed a controversial financial rescue package Wednesday, giving the bill its first legislative victory but adding provisions that could complicate efforts to push the $700 billion plan through the House of Representatives.
The compromise bill represented a marriage of the rescue proposal with a host of measures designed to win the support of reluctant lawmakers. Additions include an increase in bank deposit insurance limits, a suggested change to accounting rules, and a $150.5 billion package of unrelated personal and corporate tax cuts.
The additions boosted support in the Senate, which voted 74 to 25 in favor, the latest twist in the proposal’s roller-coaster ride this week. Opposition came from conservatives, populists and senators facing tight races where the rescue bill is drawing criticism.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he expected the House would pass the bill, a sentiment echoed by other senators. House leaders expressed cautious optimism they could secure passage, but couldn’t be definitive.
The 10-year, $150.5 billion package of tax proposals includes a measure to ease the bite of the alternative minimum tax, as well as research-and-development tax credits coveted by high-tech companies and drug makers. Its addition is designed to secure the support of Republicans, who were overwhelmingly opposed in the House. But it could irk conservative House Democrats because the measure will add to the deficit.
The bill also reaffirms the Securities and Exchange Commission’s authority to suspend so-called mark-to-market accounting, an issue that gained surprising traction among lawmakers looking for less costly alternatives to the Bush plan. The practice, adopted in the aftermath of the savings-and-loan collapse in the 1980s, pegs the value of assets to their current market price, rather than the price paid for them.
The bill, which started out less than three pages long, now comprises more than 400 pages.
The move to raise deposit insurance offered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to $250,000 from $100,000 adds billions of dollars of new liabilities to the federal government. As part of the bill, the FDIC earned expanded authority to borrow taxpayer dollars to back the higher coverage. The agency’s deposit insurance fund is already at historically low levels. It now has a $30 billion line of credit with Treasury.
Through 2009, the bill would permit the FDIC to request unlimited amounts to cover losses related to the higher limits.