Senate to take up bailout package

SENATE TO TAKE UP BAILOUT PACKAGE…. Things didn’t go well for bailout bill on Monday, though leaders from both parties insisted that the chamber would try again after the observance of Rosh Hashanah. Before the House can give this another shot, though, the Senate hoped to create some “momentum” for the legislation by passing the bill tonight.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is a massive spending bill, so doesn’t it have to originate in the House? Actually, yes. But as Kevin noted, Senate leaders found a way around this.

Apparently Harry Reid found some ancient mental health bill that the Senate had never acted on, dusted it off, and grafted the bailout legislation on top of it. Then he tossed in an increase in FDIC insurance limits to $250,000 (a bipartisan winner), loaded up a bunch of tax cuts that had already been approved by the Senate but hadn’t yet passed in the House, and voila. Instant bailout bill.

Senate passage of the bill seems pretty likely, especially with Obama, Biden, and McCain all returning to the Hill to cast votes in favor of the package. And what about the House? The New York Times reports that calls to lawmakers’ offices shifted after Monday’s developments.

Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Senate banking committee, said the Senate decided to move quickly, citing signs of regret from some House members after the markets plunged in response to their initial vote.

“I think their will is coming back having heard from their constituents,” Mr. Dodd said. […]

On the morning after the sell-off on Wall Street, Congressional offices reported a shift in angry calls from constituents, with some now demanding that lawmakers take some corrective action — a distinct change from the outpouring of public opposition that contributed to the defeat of the plan.

The Senate going first does change the dynamic a bit. Yesterday, a variety of House members began exploring new alternatives to the bill rejected on Monday, including at least one that would garner significant Democratic support. But if the news reports this morning are accurate, Senate passage of the bill tonight would make it less likely for alternative measures to draw consideration in the House tomorrow.

Would enough House Republicans move towards the Senate bill to ensure passage? John Boehner was reportedly consulted on the Senate version and, according to the Wall Street Journal, “gave the green light,” confident that the GOP would come around. We’ll see.

The Senate vote is scheduled for around 7 p.m. eastern. Stay tuned.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.