Bailout Not So Popular on the Hill

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission Christopher Cox, and director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency James Lockhart III testifying today before Congress.
Photo: Getty Images

Not that everything was going swimmingly for Henry Paulson up until now, but the reaction from some members of the Senate Banking Committee today definitely wasn't as accommodating as he'd hoped. Though many confirmed the need for action, they also expressed concern that, despite President Bush's insistence, things were moving too quickly, and that maybe we should, you know, discuss things before throwing $700 billion around. Senators from both parties responded with a range of emotions at the hearing today, from grudgingly cooperative to Paul Revere–style riding-and-yelling levels of alarm. "After reading this proposal," chairman Chris Dodd intoned, "I can only conclude that it is not only our economy that is at risk, Mr. Secretary, but our Constitution, as well." Similarly, Republican Senator Jim Bunning called the plan "financial socialism" and "un-American." Others, meanwhile, tried to find the right easily understandable metaphor for the complex financial situation. Chuck Schumer (who caused his own debate by suggesting a smaller bailout, along the lines of $150 billion) compared the nation's predicament to a patient whose clogged arteries would cause a heart attack if not dealt with quickly, while Barack Obama, in a news conference down in Florida, thought the economy was more like a damaged ship that needs to be towed back to shore and repaired. Whether anything was actually accomplished today besides a cathartic — and ass-protecting — airing of concerns remains to be seen.

Bailout Plan a Hard Sell on Capitol Hill [NYT]

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