WASHINGTON -- Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday he is not going to point fingers on how a last-minute provision allowing AIG executives to collect big bonuses ended up in a bill that Congress passed last month.
"I not only do not want to talk in the rear-view mirror, I am not going to," Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, said when asked about the bill in a meeting with reporters.
Republicans are seeking to blame Democrats for a grandfather clause on executive pay that was placed in the final $787 billion economic stimulus bill shortly before it passed on Feb. 13.
They say it cleared a path for $165 million in bonuses to be paid to executives of the American International Group, the giant insurance firm that has received more than $173 billion in federal bailout funds.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., has said he put the provision in the bill at the urging of the Obama administration.
Reid, who led a small group of senior Democrats as they formed the final bill, declined to assign blame or replay how the grandfather clause was put in the bill.
"First of all, we need to understand but for Senator Dodd, there would be nothing in this legislation," Reid said, adding that he relies on committee chairmen to negotiate legislation on which they have expertise.
Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, was involved in the stimulus talks.
Reid noted that Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was on the conference committee that formed the bill, and also Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"We did the very best we could," Reid said.
"To say who did it, when did they do it, why did they do it, I think we should look at the bill we passed," Reid said. "It was a good piece of legislation considering the time restraints we were working under. It is already stimulating the economy."
"We caught the AIG thing at a time when we can do something about it," Reid said.
"We have to start focusing on the future, not try to redo what has already been done."
On that point, Reid said Republicans are the ones who are holding up efforts to recover some of the bonus money already paid to AIG employees.
"I am always hoping for the sun coming up, but for Republicans, it is always going down." Reid said.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@ stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.