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Constituents: 'Solve this crisis'

WASHINGTON -- When U.S. Rep. J. Gresham Barrett went home to his district this week, his constituents were still hopping mad over the financial bailout that the House of Representatives, with the South Carolina Republican's help, had just defeated.

However, they told Barrett that he had to return to Washington and take action to prevent an economic meltdown.

"Get the best deal you can," Barrett recalled one constituent telling him. "Make sure you take care of us, but solve this crisis."

Barrett has heeded that advice: He declared late Thursday he would switch sides and vote today for a significantly changed rescue plan.

"If Congress does not act, the effects will be serious for American small business, families and consumers," Barrett said. "While this bill continues to contain a number of provisions that I oppose, I believe we are at the end of the legislative process and action is required."

Barrett is among the 228 House members 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats who voted against the rescue plan Monday.

After substantial changes in the bailout package, the Senate overwhelmingly approved it late Wednesday, setting up a second House vote today.

U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., said the revised rescue plan extends a tax deduction of $1,000 per family to offset state and local property taxes.

"Congress has already delivered real property tax relief to the families who need it most, and in the coming days we will do even more," Clyburn said in a joint statement with Illinois U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who works under him as chairman of the House Democratic caucus.

Clyburn aides said the Columbia Democrat had promised to deliver 118 votes Monday half of his caucus and came through with 140 Democratic votes.

"He's working to maintain our numbers," said Kristie Greco, a Clyburn spokeswoman. "The changes in the bill may change some 'yes' votes to 'no' and some 'no' votes to 'yes,' but we should net the same number perhaps a handful more."

Clyburn planned to contact his GOP counterpart, U.S. House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, to ensure the bailout legislation has enough votes to pass.

Barrett was the only member of South Carolina's House delegation to vote against the rescue package.

Barrett and other "no" votes faced pressure to change their stance and vote for the $700 billion bailout.

"It's the most important vote I've ever taken in my career," Barrett said. "If people didn't understand the gravity before Monday, they do now."

Barrett, who's eyeing a gubernatorial run, liked some of the changes in the revised Senate measure, such as increasing the level of bank deposits that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insures from $100,000 to $250,000.

Barrett and his staff spent much of the week in feverish talks on Capitol Hill, weighing proposals in congressional caucuses and dozens of phone calls with colleagues and constituents.

U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, a Greenville Republican, said he would again support "an attempt to stave off a severe economic downturn" in the country.

"We are hearing from employers in Greenville County who say they cannot get credit to conduct their daily business," Inglis said.

Barrett got little guidance from the Republican U.S. senators from his state: Lindsey Graham voted for the revised bailout plan; Jim DeMint voted against it.

Graham said constituents flooded his office with angry calls and e-mails opposing the fiscal package.

"One thing I have found is that a phone call from mad people helps you only so much," Graham said. "There will always be people calling my office telling me what I can't do. I think it is up to me to have a little broader view of what to do."

The Senate sweetened the bailout proposal by increasing the FDIC insurance level for bank deposits and extending dozens of tax breaks totaling $110 billion for families and companies alike.

Barrett said he'd had several conversations with House Minority Leader John Boehner, who was jolted Monday when more than two-thirds of his Republican caucus rejected the bailout package he'd helped craft.

Barbara Barrett and Kevin Hall of the McClatchy Washington Bureau contributed. Rosen covers Washington for McClatchy Newspapers in South Carolina.

AP-NY-10-02-08 2147EDT

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