Strategic Switchers

"There are 81 Congressional districts whose representatives voted to support the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which bailed out Wall Street banks, and voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which funded public-oriented stimulus. Theory on Congressional behavior claims that members of Congress are motivated to engage in particular behaviors that help their reelection campaigns, but this voting pattern goes challenges that argument because representatives voted against a bill that would bring money back to their district. This thesis analyzes public statements made by representatives of these 81 switcher districts to better understand how they justified their votes to bail out Wall Street in 2008 and not Main Street in 2009 as economic conditions continued to worsen during the Great Recession. I find that member of Congress were willing to make an exception for the Economic Emergency and Stabilization Act because it was targeted at finance and because its passage required bipartisanship in a time of perceived crisis. These representatives did not want to bailout Wall Street, but without a share of bipartisan votes the risk of the credit crisis worsening was too high and they voted to pass the bill. Because the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act did not require bipartisan support and because the stakes were perceived as lower for Republicans, the bill did not garner bipartisan support, even if it would have benefitted member's constituents. This conclusion speaks to the political economy of policymaking during economic crises and during an era of hyper-partisanship. "

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