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Lincoln leans toward support of bailout

With a Senate vote on the $700 billion financial bailout bill just a few hours away, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., signaled Wednesday she would support the measure.

Lincoln said she still wanted to talk to a few more of her colleagues about the bill intended to stabilize the nation’s imperiled economy, but that: “I definitely think that doing nothing is not an option.”

The House rejected its bailout effort Monday, sending the stock market into a tailspin.

The Senate added to its version an extension of popular tax breaks on businesses in a move designed to lure support from House Republicans. A business research and development tax credit, incentives for renewable energy and a fix to protect more than 20 million Americans from the alternative minimum tax (AMT) is in the Senate bill.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House would take up the measure (if approved by the Senate) Friday, only if leaders knew they had the votes to pass it.

Lincoln said her constituents have made it clear Congress needs to do something, even if the bill may appear unsavory.

The measure is much improved over an initial Bush administration proposal that didn’t set limits on executive compensation and pledged a full $700 billion automatically. Lincoln said the Senate bill applies more accontability and transparency into how the government adminsters the bailout plan.

“We’re going to try to take a two-pronged approach here, which is making money available in installments,” she said. “The first, being $250 billion, then an extra $100 billion would be available for the executive branch to use if necessary.”

Lincoln called the tax breaks a “parallel approach” to the rescue plan for fixing the economy.

“Business and industry are the engine of the economy,” she said. “We have to make sure the jobs they have, they keep, and the jobs they want to give, they can give.”

While the tax package may entice House Republicans, it may put off a number of fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats. Blue Dogs oppose tax breaks that aren’t offset in the federal budget by additional revenue.

The incentives are partially offset with tax hikes for oil companies and closure of a corporate tax loophole. Still, about $25 billion would be added to the budget deficit under the proposal, Lincoln said.

“I try to be fiscally responsible, too, that’s important,” she said. “But we’re looking at a circumstance that needs a timely response.”

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Blue Dog party raises questions

Congressional Quarterly today reported that some ethics watchdog groups criticized the Blue Dog Democrats for participating in a party Sunday in Denver on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.

A spokesman for one ethics group told the publication the “Blue Night In Denver” party was not in line with a new law that puts restrictions on lawmakers who attend a lobbyist-sponsored reception.

Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, is one of the leaders of the group of fiscally conservative Democrats in the House.

He was reported saying that the House Blue Dog Coalition had nothing to do with the party.

“We paid at the door like everybody else,” Ross said.

Rep. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, is also a Blue Dog.

The Washington Post and Salon.com feature related articles.

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