World and Nation

House GOP Leaders Wrangle Balky Caucus on Bailout

House Republican leaders struggled Thursday to persuade some of their members to reverse course and support the $700 billion economic bailout package, but both parties said that they were guardedly optimistic about winning final passage of the measure in a vote expected early Friday afternoon.

As the White House and congressional leaders maneuvered to drum up support, several lawmakers in each party said they were prepared to switch their votes. But others agonized amid a continuing deluge of calls from angry constituents, and top Democrats warned that they would not bring the bill to the floor unless they were certain of victory.

The Senate approved the bailout plan on Wednesday night, 74-25, with a solid bipartisan majority after adding a thick portfolio of popular tax provisions. The Senate action came after House members defied the leadership of both parties and rejected the plan on Monday. It fell 12 votes short, and Republicans opposed it by two to one.

Democrat leaders insisted Thursday that it remained up to the Republicans to find more votes. The Senate included more than $150 billion in tax breaks, including incentives for solar, wind and other renewable energy sources, but it included offsets to pay for only $43 billion, infuriating fiscally conservative Democrats in the House.

“We may lose people,” the majority leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland said. “And I have informed the Republican leadership that that may be the case. Because frankly, the things that were added on and the way they were added on essentially appeal to Republicans.”

But apparently it was not appealing enough because only a few Republicans stated publicly that they were prepared to switch their votes to yes. One of them, Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., said the economy was just in too precarious a state.

“The time has come to act.” Wamp said in an interview on Fox Television. “If we do not go on the wall, it will be an ugly day in America.”

Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., said he also intended to switch and vote in favor because the Senate had added a provision requiring equivalence, or parity, in insurance coverage of mental and physical ailments.