As the conversations and accusations continue to swirl around the proposed bailout legislation, Dennis Prager sought clarity from Senator Joe Lieberman. He spoke to Dennis from the Senate cloak room.
Prager: Let’s begin with this: Were you surprised? The public is being told a deal was made and then torpedoed by House Republicans. Is that the fact?
Lieberman: This is not the fact. There was not a deal. There was an agreement, let’s say, among some members of the Senate Banking Committee and the Democrats in the House side of the House Financial Services Committee. They went out and announced it. Frankly, I think they announced it prematurely, because the normal course is to take those agreements back to the four caucuses. So, there never was an agreement. It was clear the House Republicans are very much against the Paulson plan. I was in the Senate Democratic caucus with Paulson the other night—one of my rare appearances these days, Dennis, at Senate Democratic…
Prager: I was thinking that.
Lieberman: And there was a lot of really emotional challenging of Paulson. [It was the same among] Senate Republicans. So no deal, and then Senator McCain came back to try to put one together. I think he’s in a position now as the titular leader of the Republican Party to have a special ability to bring people together. And his goal is to get an agreement that saves the country from an economic disaster—but to make sure the taxpayers’ money is protected in it, and I think that’s the direction in which we’re heading.
Prager: What was the major Senate Democratic objection to the Paulson plan?
Lieberman: Now the difference: To some extent the things people focus on in the different caucuses are different, but the overall concerns are not. There’s real concern about one making sure that if it does end up being $700 billion of taxpayers’ money that the taxpayers are protected as best we can—and that we basically try to get an ownership interest in any fiscal entity that we put money into. That was not there in the original Paulson plan. That’s a major concern of House Republicans as well, and also Senate Democrats obviously want to go after Wall Street and cap compensations—so does John McCain—of the CEOs on Wall Street. Of course, they would like to introduce a tax increase into this bill, but that will never go.
Prager: Alright, so what is the big divide? Are there one, two, three issues? What’s the big divide?
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