Minnesota’s two senators say they expect to vote in favor of the financial rescue package tonight despite a number of reservations.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is not up for election, said she supports the rescue plan “with many reservations. I do not support it to rescue Wall Street. I support it to protect Main Street by averting an economic catastrophe that would otherwise force millions of Americans to lose their jobs, their homes and their retirement savings.”
She insisted that the financial crisis “is an indictment of eight years of failed economic policies in Washington and irresponsible business practices on Wall Street. The administration allowed Wall Street to operate like a Wild West gambling hall awash in funny money. At the 11th hour, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have had to step in as the house managers to shut the game down.”
Klobuchar said that she worked with colleagues to “strengthen the proposal with more protections for taxpayers and more limits on Wall Street… It commits less taxpayer money by releasing funds only in installments; it has stronger oversight and transparency requirements to protect taxpayer money; it limits executive compensation; and provides the opportunity for taxpayers to share in any gains and to make sure that they’re whole before the bondholders, the shareholders, and the executives.”
Klobuchar added that the proposed bill extends tax incentives for renewable energy; has tax breaks for the middle class and “establishes parity in insurance coverage for mental health benefits, a matter of fairness and dignity that Paul Wellstone long fought for.”
Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, who faces a tough reelection contest this fall, said in a statement today that he intends to vote for the package as well. “In a time of crisis, leadership and statesmanship are essential,” he said. “The domino effect of not acting could topple the finances of every Minnesotan. At first sight, this bill may seem to do more for Wall Street than Main Street. But, at the core, this legislation is about the availability of capital — the lifeblood of the economy. When credit freezes, banks stop lending, businesses can’t make payroll, and jobs are lost. Loans to pay for college, cars and homes become nearly impossible to obtain. Savings are jeopardized. We have no choice but to act.”
Coleman said that the Senate plan “protects the American taxpayers and holds Wall Street accountable. It ensures no blank checks, contains stringent oversight protections to watch where the dollars are going, and limits executive compensation and golden parachutes for Wall Street executives.”
Coleman concludes: “Addressing this financial crisis may not be politically popular in the short-term, but for our long-term economic security and stability it is the right thing to do.”
Meantime, DFLer Al Franken, who is challenging Coleman, said in a statement:
“I want to send a very clear message to Washington: If we’re going to pay a premium to clean up this mess, we had better fix the problem that caused it. That problem is the failure — the refusal — of this administration and those who support its economic agenda to hold Wall Street accountable for its reckless behavior and enforce real oversight over our financial system.
“So, I would urge that, in any bailout package that comes up for a vote, Congress not only establish strong oversight over how this $700 billion is used, but also fix the system that allowed this abusive and reckless behavior, by implementing concrete steps to guarantee transparency and oversight in the marketplace. I believe that if we don’t fix the system, this won’t be the last bailout.
“And let me be clear: this should not be a proud day in Washington. Arsonists don’t get credit for putting out their own fires, especially when it costs taxpayers $700 billion. But any bailout package must include strong oversight protections and a regulatory framework to prevent this from ever happening again.”
Doug Stone is a former reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune and assistant news director at WCCO-TV. He writes on national and international affairs.