Dems' new ally in Congress: GOP

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, right, his party's ranking member on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, talks with committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: Democrats in Congress have an unusual ally in their test of economic wills with the White House: Republicans. This week GOP lawmakers have helped override a presidential veto on Medicare, and they've called for more time to consider the Treasury Department's plan to help Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer looked into what's behind Republican rebelliousness.


NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: Republicans are openly questioning the Bush plan for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It would give the government temporary authority to loan Fannie and Freddie money and even buy their shares. Some Republicans say they don't want to expose taxpayers to too much risk. And Republicans don't feel beholden to a lame-duck president.

Jordan Lieberman publishes Politics Magazine.

JORDAN LIEBERMAN: Congressional Republicans feel they have a license to oppose the president because it's not going to affect them negatively, politically.

Former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers says that frees up congressional Republicans to vote their fiscal conscience.

LARRY SUMMERS: There's a very legitimate desire on the part of many in Congress to make sure there is no subsidy from taxpayers to the management or owners of the government-sponsored enterprises.

"Government sponsored enterprises" is economist speak for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Of course, it doesn't hurt that members of Congress up for re-election are worried about what voters would say if they thought they were being stuck with a bail-out.

Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution says congressional Republicans have been getting an earful from constituents about an unpopular president.

STEPHEN HESS: They are getting a lot of unhappy comments, thoughts, letters and phone calls from the folks back home. It would pinch the Democrats in the same way if the situation were somewhat reversed.

Those comments have emboldened Republicans to stand up to the president in the name of protecting taxpayers.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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