Maine delegation pushes for bailout plan review

Posted Sept. 24, 2008, at 11:41 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Maine’s U.S senators and representatives all share the same point of view on the $700 billion bailout plan and the Bush administration’s efforts to have it approved by the end of the week: The Congress should not act in haste.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday and the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday that delaying passage of the plan would cause a recession and increased joblessness.

But members of Congress across party lines are concerned about giving $700 billion to the Treasury without a thorough analysis of the plan and inclusion in the final version of guarantees of oversight and safeguards for taxpayers.

“It is not reasonable for the administration to ask Congress to rubber-stamp the proposal,” Republican Sen. Susan Collins said in an interview. “It is important that Congress takes time to carefully review the plan. It could potentially put at risk as much as $700 billion of taxpayers’ money.”

Paulson’s original plan has been criticized especially for its lack of oversight and concerns for taxpayers who are going to finance the bailout.

“If the plan looks like the first Paulson proposal, I would vote against it,” Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud said in an interview. “We shouldn’t act in haste. We ought to continue working and do whatever it takes to get it right. We have to make sure that all our concerns are answered.”

The Maine representatives and senators also said that taxpayers’ interest ought to be included in the plan.

“My overriding priority is to protect the financial security of the families and small businesses,” Democratic Rep. Tom Allen said in a statement. “I am working with members of Congress from both parties to craft a response to this crisis that minimizes taxpayer exposure.”

Democrats, as well as some Republicans, want to require the government to get a stake in companies that are helped so taxpayers would get a return if those companies make a profit.

“I don’t think taxpayers should be responsible to bail out Wall Street,” Michaud said. “We have to make sure taxpayers are protected.”

Collins and Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe with several colleagues asked in a letter to House and Senate leaders that any “financial rescue” legislation provide for an independent inspector general to monitor and report on Treasury’s activities.

“We need to include sufficient regulatory reform to prevent it from happening in the future and sufficient oversight so it doesn’t result in propping up Wall Street executives’ salaries that have contributed to this crisis,” Collins said.

The Maine delegation also condemned Wall Street companies that acted out of greed and put the country in this financial crisis.

“We must assure that there are consequences for the companies and the executives that led us into this crisis,” Snowe said in a press release.

Michaud said that “golden parachutes should be eliminated,” and Collins and Allen said they favor limiting excessive compensation for executives.

Snowe said the government should rethink the regulation of financial markets.

“This must also begin the process of reforming our regulatory framework across our financial markets,” she said. “Looking forward, we need increased accountability and transparency for all our markets, not just some, as it has been the case in the past.”

Michaud said Congress has to ensure good corporate governance, unlike in the past.

“If it had been regulated, we wouldn’t have gotten to that point,” he said.

Congress had been scheduled to adjourn Friday so members could go home to campaign. But with the serious concerns remaining about the bailout plan, Congress is likely to remain in session at least through the weekend.

“I feel strongly that we should not adjourn,” Collins said. “There are still questions about how it would work and even if it is an appropriate response.”

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