Despite party’s national split, Minnesota’s GOP House members oppose AIG ‘bonus tax’

American International Group building in New York's financial district.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
American International Group building in New York’s financial district.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite a split among Republicans, all of Minnesota’s GOP representatives voted today against a House-passed bill that provides for a 90 percent tax on bonuses for AIG and other financial institutions that received bailout funds last fall.

The measure, which passed 328-93, divided House Republicans, with 85 for it and 87 against. The state’s congressional delegation split along party lines, with five Democrats in support and three Republicans opposed.

“This is not going to fix the problem … it’s just a cover-up for government incompetence,” said Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., after today’s vote.

Paulsen offered his own bill Wednesday and today to recoup bonuses that were paid to AIG executives. The measure, which would have required the Treasury to collect the bonuses within two weeks, failed to come to the floor for a vote both times.

Rep. Erik Paulsen

Rep. Erik Paulsen

“Congress again missed an important chance to act on this critical bill today,” Paulsen said in a statement. “Our common-sense approach would have recovered these bonus payments and, more importantly enacted policies to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  Unfortunately, a number my colleagues instead sought short-term political cover through a massive, misguided tax increase that ignores the actions that led to this problem in the first place.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s office labeled the measure that passed a “super tax.” Rep. John Kline also voted against the bill.

But Minnesota Democrats have said that the tax plan is the quickest and most targeted way for Congress to deal with the bonus debacle.

Rep. Jim Oberstar, who voted for the bill, said, “It’s the only tool we have legislatively to deal with the mismanagement by AIG.”

Rep. Tim Walz also voted for the legislation. In a statement, Walz said, “It will take back the taxpayer-paid bonuses these executives have received.”

Rep. Tim Walz

Rep. Tim Walz

“This bill will make sure that taxpayer dollars aren’t funding lavish bonuses at companies that have received bailout funds,” said Walz.

Also supporting the measure were Reps. Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and Collin Peterson.

The Senate is working on similar legislation that would also impose a hefty tax on employees who accepted bonuses at companies that received federal bailout money.

The House Financial Services Committee is expected to mark up more legislation next week.

The executive bonus issue exploded on Capitol Hill this week, when it was learned that AIG awarded millions in bonuses to current and former employees after taking billions from the government to stay afloat.

Cynthia Dizikes covers Minnesota’s congressional delegation and reports on issues and developments in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at cdizikes[at]minnpost[dot]com.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by david granneman on 03/19/2009 - 09:46 pm.

    hello all
    inspector obama is shocked to find there is gambling going on in this establishment.

    it appears senator dodd is throwing president obama under the bus. he clearly stated that last fall he included the dodd amendment to stimulus package to prevent aig executives from getting hugh bonuses. the president ordered that this amendment be removed from the package to allow the bonuses to be paided to aig executives.
    i guess the president was thankful for the $100,000 bonus, i mean contribution, he recieved from aig. the president clearly LIED when said he was did not know about the bonuses – HE TOOK DIRECT ACTIONS TO MAKE SURE THESE BONUSES WHERE PAID.

    AMERICA IT IS TIME WE TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY.

  2. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 03/19/2009 - 10:21 pm.

    If the bill were to actually become law (doubtful, although the incompetence of the current Congress never ceases to amaze me) it will be struck down in the courts lest the government just decide to tax Bill Gates or Warren Buffet at a 90% rate. The best hope would be that none of the “taxed” persons doesn’t file a lawsuit and cost the government even more money that it doesn’t have.

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/20/2009 - 09:58 am.

    Let’s see… how does recent history demonstrate our Republican friends would have handled these bonuses? First, they would have kept the whole situation secret. Second, they would have tracked down and fired or discredited anyone who revealed that the bonuses had been paid (by outing their covert-operative CIA spouse, or circulating false stories about dark things in their past). Third, they would have blustered “free market” and claimed that any attempt to limit such bonuses would do terrible damage by interfering with the always-benevolent and always-correct workings of “the market.” The way the Obama Administration has responded puts the lie to everything about the previous administration. First, the Obama administration allowed the payment of the bonuses to be publicly known. Second, they owned up to a mistake they had made. Third, they worked with congress to address that mistake and correct the situation. Of course the Republicans hate it! How can they get any traction against the Obama administration if they keep owning up to and correcting their mistakes?!

  4. Submitted by Brian Simon on 03/20/2009 - 01:53 pm.

    “”This is not going to fix the problem … it’s just a cover-up for government incompetence,” said Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., after today’s vote… Paulsen offered his own bill Wednesday and today to recoup bonuses that were paid to AIG executives. The measure, which would have required the Treasury to collect the bonuses within two weeks, failed to come to the floor for a vote both times.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Rep Paulson’s clawback routine also a cover-up for government incompetence? What on earth is the difference? Ignore the fact that both the tax and the claw-back demand are likely illegal; if people like Reps Paulsen & Bachmann are outraged at the bonuses, why do they care which method is used to (attempt to) recover the funds?

  5. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 03/21/2009 - 10:42 am.

    If the Obama administration came up with a policy in favor of the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, the Paulsens and Bachmans of this world would be against it.

    They seem to believe they will make political capital out of every measure of opposition, no matter how insubstantial. It’s a page from Karl Rove’s playbook: repeat nonsense without cease, and homo boobus, i.e., the voter, will come to believe it.

    It is so cynical that the word “cynical” seems hardly adequate to cover it.

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