WASHINGTON - Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, one of the first members of Congress to acknowledge the public's doubts about a $700 billion financial bailout, voted last night to approve the intervention.
In a speech on the Senate floor before the vote, the Maryland Democrat said that taxpayers were "mad as hell" about the financial crisis - and so was she.
"Regrettably, a rescue plan is needed," Mikulski said. "I'm afraid that if we do not act today, and if we do not act with resolve, then our economy could come to a crashing halt. I'm afraid about massive layoffs. I'm afraid about small businesses folding. And I'm worried that retirement and pension funds could shrink."
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Mikulski's fellow Maryland Democrat, also voted for the measure, which passed the Senate 74-25. He called the vote "one of the most unpleasant I have taken during my years in the Congress."
"I resent that we have been forced into this corner by the greed and irresponsibility of a few," he said. "This is not the bill that I would have written, but our economy is in dire straits and our time is limited."
The legislation now goes to the House, where its prospects are less clear. Conservative Republicans joined with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other liberal Democrats to reject a version of the package Monday.
The Senate plan would expand federal insurance on bank accounts, a move sought by House members who voted "no" earlier in the week. The Securities and Exchange Commission has announced a change in accounting rules that also was sought by opponents.
Sen. Barack Obama was urging House members to support the bill. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat who had voted against the House bill, described a telephone call with the Democratic presidential nominee.
"We talked about the things that we both were concerned about, and that was taking care of people who are facing foreclosure," said Cummings, an early Obama supporter. "Basically, he assured me that we would work together when he becomes president to address those issues."
Cummings still hadn't decided how he would vote.
Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a conservative Republican from Western Maryland who voted against the House bill, said the Senate version is an improvement, but he still opposes intervention.
Rep. Donna Edwards, a Prince George's County Democrat who also voted against the House bill, could not be reached for comment yesterday.