The New Mantra of the Democratic party is Blame Him NOT ME. Like rats deserting a sinking ship, the Democrats are blaming each other for the AIG mess. The House blamed the Senate; the Senate blamed the Obama administration. President Obama, on the Tonight Show blamed the Special Olympics. Everyone was grandstanding, heck even tax cheat Charlie Rangel faked moral indignation. Then on top of it all Republicans kept the pressure on the Democrats for their gross hypocrisy for being outraged when it was the Democrats who rushed through legislation that contained the hidden clause approving the bonus payments.
More about the congressional blame game below:
By Mike Soraghan
Posted: 03/19/09 08:24 PM [ET]
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Democrats, rocked by public outrage over bonuses, on Thursday began blaming each other over who was responsible for the mess.
The House blamed the Senate; the Senate blamed the Obama administration. President Obama, on travel in California, was relatively quiet on the issue. But Republicans blamed everyone.
The finger-pointing took place even as the House rushed legislation meant to soothe anger over millions of dollars in bonuses paid out by bailed-out insurer AIG. Legislation meant to claw-back those bonuses was approved in a 328-93 vote.
The blame game surrounded language in the economic stimulus bill that Republicans charge protected bonuses to bailed-out firms.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House had nothing to do with the now-toxic provision, authored by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), and pointed reporters pressing her for answers to her colleagues in the Senate.
“If you want to talk about what happened in the Senate, go to the Senate side,” she said.
Senate leaders defended their actions, and deflected blame onto the Obama administration. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he was “of course” frustrated with the Treasury Department’s position on the bonuses.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) referred questions to Dodd. At another point, he said he wanted to start “focusing on the future.”
Sensing the Democrats’ disarray, Republicans pounced on the handling of the bonus provision in the stimulus. They used Watergate-style language, and lodged many of the same process complaints that Democrats once registered against them.
“Who knew what and when did they know it?” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) demanded on the floor. “This language was air-dropped into a conference that occurred behind closed doors involving very few members.”
That, said Republican leaders, was what was more important than passing the legislation to use the tax code to retrieve the $165 million in bonuses from AIG executives and employees.
But even though Republican leaders opposed the bill, they decided not to lobby their membership to swim against the tide of public opinion that Democrats were riding.
Democrats brushed aside GOP complaints. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) dismissed the idea that an outraged public cared who might have changed the wording of the 1,100-page stimulus bill at the last minute, saying, “Nobody back home is asking about the conference report.”
And Democrats also questioned the sincerity of GOP complaints, noting that until the AIG bonuses were revealed last weekend, Republicans had generally fought attempts to restrict big paychecks on Wall Street.
“This interest in executive compensation is a fairly new interest,” chided House Financial Services panel Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
But Republicans made the argument that the haste that caused the bonus problem in the stimulus bill was on display as they passed a tax bill that was drafted under duress the day before.
“The reason for passing legislation we don’t understand is because we passed legislation we didn’t read,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).
Although the vote was overwhelming, six Democrats voted against it. Most of them are from conservative districts and often vote against leadership. But Rep. Mike McMahon (D-N.Y.) said he voted no because it would hurt many of his constituents in the New York financial industry.
“This legislation goes way beyond the egregious AIG bonuses,” McMahon said in a statement, “and affects tens of thousands of people who work for banks, including bank managers and local employees in Staten Island and Brooklyn.”
Separately, McMahon’s office said he would return a $1,000 contribution from AIG that was recorded the same day the company received an $85 billion infusion from the Federal Reserve.
Obama praised the House’s vote in a statement released Thursday evening that did not touch on the issues surrounding Dodd’s amendment.
“Today’s vote rightly reflects the outrage that so many feel over the lavish bonuses that AIG provided its employees at the expense of the taxpayers who have kept this failed company afloat,” Obama said.
“Now this legislation moves to the Senate, and I look forward to receiving a final product that will serve as a strong signal to the executives who run these firms that such compensation will not be tolerated.”
The fate of the bill is unclear. The Senate didn’t introduce its version until well after Thursday’s vote, and it took a very different approach.
But Democrats are not giving up on the issue. Next week, they are expected to vote on bills giving the Justice Department the authority to go after bonuses and more broadly block bailed-out firms from paying bonuses.