Congress eyes solutions for Wall Street woes
Lawmakers focus on bailouts and look to overhaul financial regulations.
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"They gave every impression, these two good men, that they are attempting to do the best they can to understand America's financial institutions and the problems with them," said Senator Reid in a statement on the floor on Wednesday. "But the good intentions of these two decent men cannot escape the reality: the Bush administration's willful neglect of oversight and overzealous embrace of big business is directly responsible for the crisis we now face," he added.Skip to next paragraph
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Republicans, also caught by surprise by the AIG announcement, cautioned the Democrats not to turn the nation's financial crisis into a partisan argument.
"Now more than ever is the time to rise above politics and work together," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in a floor speech on Wednesday. "Our constituents don't want campaign speeches and hyperpartisan accusations – they want security for their home and savings. They want energy security and lower costs for gas and oil. And they want protection from future tax hikes on their income," he added.
Privately, some GOP leaders complained that the Bush administration had left them out of the loop. Had GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain had an inkling of the AIG announcement, for example, he might not have declared on Monday that the fundamentals of the US economy were strong – now a key Democratic talking point in the fall election campaign.
Meanwhile, the pace of the financial crisis is overwhelming the capacity of Congress to take a lead role in the government's response.
"Actions that were inconceivable just days ago are now occurring in a manner and at a pace that is certainly cause for concern," said Sen. Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, in a statement.
In coming days, the banking panel will be asking "crucial questions on behalf of the American people," he added. These include: How will the AIG bailout and others affect taxpayers? To what extent will it calm the markets or add to the uncertainty? And does this administration have a coherent strategy to put the economy on a stronger footing?
Democrats say the public should not expect a solution overnight – or even a template for determining which firms or industries will be helped.
"I don't think anyone has the magical solution of 'yes' for one industry and 'no' for another, but we are traveling a precarious path," said Sen. Patty Murray (D) of Washington, who serves as Democratic Conference Secretary.
"This administration has created this problem over a very long period of time and they're scrambling to find the right balance in a very quick amount of time," she adds.