Top Democrats skeptical of Bush bailout package
WASHINGTON — Two powerful Democrats in the US Congress expressed skepticism Saturday over the 700-billion-dollar plan President George W. Bush has proposed to rescue the country's beleaguered financial sector.
The top Senate Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid, blamed the crisis on Bush's laissez-faire policies, then called on the president to better explain why such a sweeping program was needed as the country prepared for a presidential vote in less than six weeks' time.
And while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Democrats would work with Republicans to craft a bailout measure, she insisted that the interests of common Americans must be kept in mind.
"It is now self-evident that the Bush administration's extreme hands-off policies have been disastrous," Reid said in a statement. "The American people have every right to be outraged that we are at this point."
Yet "from all indications" the threat to the world economy "is real, and the consequences of inaction could be catastrophic."
Reid called on Bush, whose term ends in January 2009, "to better explain to the public the severity of the threat all Americans face, and why he believes his approach is needed."
He also called on his Republican colleagues to work with Democrats "to provide real relief to working families."
In her statement, Pelosi said the Bush administration "has requested that Congress authorize, in very short order, sweeping and unprecedented powers for the Treasury Secretary to confront a financial crisis of historic proportions."
Democrats will work with Bush officials to address the crisis, "but we must insulate Main Street from Wall Street and keep people in their homes by reducing mortgage foreclosures," she said.
Pelosi vowed to strengthen the Treasury proposal "by ensuring that the government is accountable to the taxpayers in any future actions under this broad grant of authority, implementing strong oversight mechanisms, and establishing fast-track authority for the Congress to act on responsible regulatory reform."
Pelosi also vowed to "protect lower- and middle-income Americans, who need to be protected from the fallout of the ongoing Wall Street crisis, by enacting an economic recovery package that creates jobs and returns growth to our economy."
The Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, issued a statement calling for the bailout plan to remain free of "partisan plans or pet projects."
"This proposal is, and should be kept, simple and clear," McConnell said. "We have the opportunity here to help protect Americans on Main Street."
Americans "are looking for economic security and want us to stand up for them in a bipartisan way," he said.
Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said that Democrats and Republicans are "working as expeditiously as we can to help stabilize the economy in a manner that protects taxpayers and promotes home ownership."
According to Dodd, "the stakes could not be higher, and there is no time to waste, but I am hopeful that we will be able to achieve these important objectives."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said lawmakers should act fast, but with care, and vowed to bring the legislation to the House floor "in the coming days."
"While we must act quickly, we also need to act prudently. And, we must ensure that the average working American benefits from this action," Hoyer said.