Did Bernie Sanders Bailout Wall Street?

bailoutCourtesy of Being Libertarian, with over 1,300 likes and 680 shares.  This meme attempts to portray Bernie Sanders as a hypocrite for condemning Wall Street, while also voting for bailouts.  Specifically, it relates to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailouts and his supposed yes vote on January 15, 2009.  However, the meme mischaracterizes how Sanders voted.

It’s true there was a vote for TARP on January 15, 2009, and that Senator Sanders voted yes.  However, this vote was actually against TARP.  It’s a bit confusing, so to best understand it we need to start with the original TARP bill.

Original TARP Bill

On October 1, 2008 the Senate passed legislation approving up to $700 billion in TARP funds to bail out firms during the Great Recession.  The vote passed 74-25 with heavy Democratic support.  Notably, Senator Hillary Clinton voted for it, while Senator Sanders voted against.  This bill allowed up to $700 billion in bailouts for the financial industry, but initially only gave $350 billion for the President and Treasury Secretary to dole out.  Obtaining the second $350 billion required them to submit a written report to Congress explaining the need for additional resources.

The January 15 Resolution

Fast forward to a couple months later.  President Bush, with President-elect Obama’s consent, requested the second installment of bailout money on January 12, 2009.  In response, a resolution was called for in the Senate to disapprove these additional funds.  A copy of this resolution is shown below, with highlights added.


This is the resolution Bernie Sanders voted for on January 15, 2009.

On January 15, this resolution to stop the second $350 billion in bailouts was put to a vote, where it failed 52-42.  A bit closer than the original bailout vote, as many in Congress started to doubt how the funds were being used. Keep in mind, a yes vote meant a vote against additional bailout money, while a no vote was a de facto approval of the remaining $350 billion in bailouts.  Senator Sanders voted yes, while Senator Clinton voted no.  The result of the failed resolution meant the bailouts went ahead as scheduled, but it was despite of, not because of Sanders (and 41 others) voting yes.

Auto Bailouts

On December 11, 2008, Sanders (along with Clinton) voted yes to a bill that would allow $15 billion in bailouts to the auto industry.  This effort failed, although some of the TARP money ended up being used on auto bailouts anyway.  Whether or not one considers the auto industry “Wall Street” is a separate question, but clearly Sanders is not opposed to corporate welfare for certain large corporations in practice.


While Bernie Sanders did support bailouts of the auto industry, he voted against the Wall Street TARP bailouts, even as most Democrats supported it.  In particular, as it relates to the January 15, 2009 vote referred to in the meme, it’s simply wrong to claim that he was voting for Wall Street bailouts, as it was precisely the opposite.