WASHINGTON-With the world watching Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a wide margin, 263-171, the $700 billion economic rescue package. The question of the bill's success still hung in the air minutes before the vote took place, though House leaders had expressed confidence about its passage.
"We have been criticized for not deciding affirmatively," said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. "What we did decide is that [the] initial failure should not stand."
"It isn't the bill I would write," Minority Leader John Boehner said before the vote. "But to do nothing is not an option."
The victory was sweeping, with 91 Republicans voting for the bill, 26 more than Monday, and 172 Democrats casting "ayes" votes, 32 more than the first try. Members acknowledged that political winds and public opinion had shifted since Monday's vote.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) switched to vote for the bill, but said the House leadership had not pressured him to do so.
"It began to hit me," he said after the vote. "While I have great concerns about the bill ... that I also had a lot of people-my neighbors, my constituents-who were suffering on a daily basis. This Congress is their last line of defense right now."
In September, employers slashed jobs by 159,000, another sign of recession, while the nation's unemployment rate held steady at 6.1 percent, according to Labor Department figures released Friday.
Despite the ominous jobs figures, the stock market was rising Friday with a couple hours left in trading.
The House vote created strange alliances. Those from the far left like Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) cried out against the bill. Libertarians and Blue Dog Democrats joined the chorus.
"The pork doesn't belong in this bill!" Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) yelled, who voted against the package. Several of his colleagues who had worked with him on an amendment to the bill, removing pork and lowering the price tag, voted for the unamended version anyway, citing a need for immediate action.
Aside from sweeteners in the bill like tax breaks, Minority Whip Roy Blunt said the Security and Exchange Commission's move to relax rules on the way banks evaluate their assets also helped move the legislation forward.
Before the vote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the point of emphasizing the bipartisan work on the bill, avoiding the partisan language that Boehner said helped derail the legislation last time.
Looking to the future and the next president, she said, "'No new deficit spending' must be our mantra."
President Bush quickly signed the bill into law.