On Capitol Hill, they call it "sweetening the pot." Out in the real world, it’s called bribery.
Whatever you call it, proponents of the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, banks and the financial industry are loading up the legislation with pork, inducements and favors for members of Congress in exchange for the votes needed to pass the bill when it hits the floor of the House of Representative on Friday.
At last count, the bribes will add at least $120 billion to the cost of the bailout.
Bit by bit, lawmaker by lawmaker, forces in favor of the massive financial rescue plan rejected just days ago are turning around the tide of opinion in Congress.
They’re using goodies, phone calls, old-fashioned arm twisting. They bring a keen knowledge of what needs to be added to the package to entice a particular congressman to flip, whether it has much to do with Wall Street or not.
Mental health parity in big insurance plans?
Sure, if that’s what it takes.
"This is sausage-making, of course," said Jade West, lobbyist for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. Toward, in her opinion, a tasty end product.
But also an even more expensive one. Add about $120 billion over five years in sweeteners the Senate is attaching to the $700 billion price tag of the bailout plan that the House voted down Monday.
The "no" voters of Monday are under tremendous pressure to just say "yes" now. The combined leadership of both parties in Congress is united behind the plan, President Bush is making calls, interest groups are pressing in and careful track is being kept of everyone’s political pulse.
"Leaning yes — NEEDS MORE CALLS," a trade association list says of one Tennessee Republican, Zach Wamp. Of another, Marsha Blackburn, the list says: "(Undecided), but positive. Sales tax impt."
That’s a reference to a provision added by the Senate that would allow taxpayers to deduct state and local sales taxes, an enormously popular idea in Tennessee, Texas, Florida and a few other states. "This is moving in the right direction," Blackburn said.
And there’s more, much more.