PORTLAND, Maine — Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Tom Allen agree that the $700 billion economic rescue package passed by Congress last week was necessary, but they disagreed Thursday on the primary causes for the meltdown on Wall Street.
Collins, who’s seeking a third term in the Senate, said during a debate on WGAN-AM that both the Clinton and Bush administrations warned of looming troubles with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which guarantee or own nearly half the nation’s mortgages.
But she said a 2005 House bill to tighten regulations was too weak, and that Allen voted against two amendments that would’ve strengthened it. That version died in the Senate. But a different bill, with the amendments, eventually became law last July.
Allen, who’s giving up his House seat to run against Collins, said the bigger problem is the economic policies of President Bush. He said they drove up the national debt.
At the same time, there was a lack of oversight of Wall Street practices, Allen said. “The belief in letting the markets run their course has never been stronger than in this administration,” he said.
Both Collins and Allen agreed that the revised version of the bailout vote was better than the first because it had added oversight and more safeguards for taxpayers.
The two also sparred over the tone of the campaign.
Allen said he never criticized Collins personally but said it was necessary to point out his and Collins’ differences on important issues.
But Collins said Allen stood silent while negative TV ads from MoveOn.org distorted her record last year. MoveOn also circulated a flier depicting Collins with blacked-out teeth. “If that’s not personal, I don’t know what is,” she said.
Collins continued to stress her bipartisan efforts to get things done. “That’s why I have a long record of accomplishments that sharply contrasts with Tom’s,” she said.
Allen responded that bipartisan efforts led to many of Bush’s policies going into law. “I believe you can be bipartisan and wrong,” he said.