Partisanship and a failure of leadership torpedoed a $700 billion bailout plan on Monday. That's it, plain and simple.
It's disgraceful that this was the case on Capitol Hill - and it's made the United States look petty and divided in the eyes of a world looking for leadership amid financial turmoil that could undermine the global economy. The House must now regroup, reorganize and get the legislation done.
Congressional lawmakers had legitimate qualms about the initial plan submitted by the Bush administration. Concerns about protecting taxpayers, curbing executive pay and oversight of the Treasury are valid. Congress must use the intervening time to resolve disputes over details.
True, 95 Democrats joined 133 Republicans to tank the bill. But the finger-pointing that followed the defeat spoke to partisanship. GOP members chided a speech by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Democrats sniped that President Bush didn't sway his own party.
The partisanship is doubly destructive because it stokes more national cynicism. The bailout plan is widely unpopular across the country, and the rancor in Congress bolsters suspicion outside the Beltway. Public disgust and skepticism can only be addressed if the bill is approved with broad, bipartisan majorities in Congress. Then lawmakers must go back to their districts and explain why the bill is needed.