Congresspedia Review: This Week in Congress (Sept. 27 - Oct. 4, 2008)

By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas

Following the Senate’s vote to approve a financial recovery package earlier this week, the House held an historic second vote on the measure Friday. To sweeten the deal for Senators and Representatives, the $700 billion bailout was packaged with other measures, including a series of popular tax credits and rebates that had recently expired.

Aside from the tax extenders package, the bill also has a number of earmarks targeted at lawmakers who voted against the original bailout legislation. Our friend Donny Shaw at has more information on those lawmakers and earmarks.

Another provision upped the amount for accounts insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to $250,000. The increase is only temporary, and will revert to the traditional $100,000 limit on January 1, 2010.

The bill also contained a mental health parity provision, designed to prevent insurers from charging more for mental-health benefits than they do for traditional insurance. The Senate easily approved the bailout package on Wednesday by a 74-21 margin. Both Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) voted “aye” on the measure.

The additions to the package were apparently enough for the House, which approved the bill 263 to 171 Friday. Republicans in the House, the majority of whom helped defeat the bill Monday, again split against the bill during today’s vote. Fifty-eight members of the House switched their vote, with the vast majority (56) changing from "no" to "yes."

President Bush signed the legislation into law on Friday afternoon. Congressional leaders indicated the bill was just one legislative step in trying to turn around the economy. In that regard, the House also voted Friday to approve an extension of unemployment benefits for 13 additional weeks. Such an extension would double the amount of time laid-off workers are eligible for benefits. Such an extension was included at one time in the stimulus bill, but was stripped out before the legislation was approved.

Congress has adjourned until after the November 4 election.