WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that Democrats in Congress will not grant President Bush "a blank check" $700 billion financial bailout bill without debate over amendments to "protect taxpayers."
Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, stopped short of saying that Democrats will hold up the bill that most everyone has said is urgent to steady the economy.
But they will not be rushed either, he said.
"We are prepared to do what is necessary, but we will not let haste abandon good judgment in the process," Reid said.
"The Bush administration has called on Congress to rubber-stamp its bailout legislation without serious debate or efforts to improve it," Reid said. "That will not happen.
Reid laid out Democrats demands in a Senate speech as lawmakers were returning to the Capitol to consider the bill that took shape over the weekend. He echoed points that we made over the weekend by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
According to Reid:
—The bailout, which would exceed in one swoop the cost of the Iraq war, needs "more oversight, more accountability and more controls to prevent conflicts of interest."
—The bill should limit "exorbitant corporate pay and golden parachutes" for executives of financial services firms that would be rescued.
—Judges should be granted authority to alter mortgage arrangements in bankruptcy proceedings. Current law allows judges to intervene in mortgages on second homes but not primary residences.
Reid also called for passage of a new economic stimulus bill — either as part of the bailout or separately — to extend unemployment insurance and target job-creating infrastructure projects.
"Democrats in Congress fully understand the severity of the situation and the need to pass legislation," Reid said. "But we are not wiling to give President Bush a blank check."
President Bush put out a statement earlier in the day saying "obviously there will be differences in some details, and we will have to work through them.
"But it would not be understandable if members of Congress sought to use this emergency legislation to pass unrelated provisions, or to insist on provisions that would undermine the effectiveness of the plan," he said.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 783-1760.