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Congressman switches sides

WASHINGTON — Half of the members of Kentucky's congressional delegation voted to approve the largest federal bailout in the nation's history — a measure with a price tag that soared from an estimated $700 billion to nearly $1 trillion after lawmakers from both parties added billions in federally funded pet projects.

In a complete reversal of Monday's vote, Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, joined Republicans Ron Lewis of Cecilia, and Harold "Hal" Rogers of Somerset in supporting the bill. Reps. Ben Chandler, D-Lexington, Geoff Davis, R-Hebron, and Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, held firm in their opposition to the proposal, which the White House characterized as critical to shoring up the nation's financial sector.

The measure passed 263 to 171.

Wall Street traders watched anxiously from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as the votes were tallied and cheered the measure's passage. The Dow edged up after the vote.

The day's events and Yarmuth's support were a stark contrast to Monday's vote when he, Chandler, Davis and Whitfield helped defeat the measure. That version of the bill failed 228 to 205, and the Dow plunged after the final votes were tallied.

Lawmakers faced mounting pressure after Monday's vote when a slightly different version of the measure failed to pass the House. Monday's proceeding's had barely gaveled to a close before the phone lines in congressional offices rang off the hook and fax lines and e-mail inboxes became clogged with messages from thousands of constituents.

In Kentucky, many of the people who reached out to lawmakers expressed their disapproval of the bailout package and urged members of Congress to hold firm. However, a number of those calls also included business owners who pleaded with lawmakers to pass the proposal.

Ford Motor Co., which owns a plant in Louisville, asked Yarmuth and congressional leadership to support the measure. Bruce Andrews, Ford's vice president of governmental affairs, said a lack of available credit resulted in plummeting sales and threatened the auto industry's viability.

"Consumer confidence is keeping buyers out of the showrooms, and the significant decrease in sales is having a major impact on our industry," Andrews wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

Yarmuth spoke with area car dealerships, Realtors, home builders and manufacturers who worried they would have to lay off workers and might face closure. He also spoke with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama at length about the bailout measure.

The bailout measure's price tag soared after billions in earmarks were added to help gain lawmakers' support. Those earmarks include a $2 million tax break to a company that makes wooden arrows for children and $192 million in tax rebates on rum industries based in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

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