THE facts are these: on Monday in the US House of Representatives, two-thirds of Republican members voted against President Bush's financial crisis bailout proposals while almost two-thirds of the Democrats voted in favour. In other words a majority of the President's own party in Congress defeated the Bill while a majority of the opposition supported it. Given what Mr Bush has said about the severity of the economic consequences for the nation as a whole if the bailout is not approved it is very difficult indeed to understand the motives of the 133 Republicans who said No. Three linked reasons have been given: that the proposals go against basic Republican free-market principles; that constituents have lobbied hard for rejection; that many of those voting No are standing for re-election in November.

The House re-assembles today and another vote may be taken tomorrow. Not many Republicans need to be persuaded to change their minds to get assent to the Bill, especially if fewer Democrats maintain their opposition. But the White House's proposals have already been changed to accommodate Republican (and some Democrat) criticism and there may not be much room left for further change. Something dramatic may be needed. There has already been surprise that President Bush has not gone to the Capitol personally to lobby for support -- he has done this before on issues of much less significance. He might be rebuffed but his standing is so low anyway it would hardly matter.