Told you so, Al Franken said.
The DFL Senate candidate, speaking at a flower shop in St. Paul, called on Congress today to hold hearings immediately — this week if possible — to strengthen guidelines and oversight of the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street.
The New York Times is reporting that, quite apart from using the federal infusion of funds to unfreeze the lending market, some banks seem intent on using the money to buy up failing banks or as a backstop in the event of more bad news.
That’s an outrage, said Franken, who has said he would have rejected the bailout package because he felt it was rushed into law and didn’t adequately protect the taxpayers it was designed to help.
“Taxpayer dollars should be helping taxpayers, not going to pad the bottom lines of the Wall Street bankers whose bad bets got us into this mess. This is exactly why we should never have passed this bill without proper accountability,” Franken said.
In addition to immediate hearings, Franken called on the Bush administration to detail its plans for the bailout dollars, a guarantee that banks will use the funds for lending, and revoking Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s power to implement the plan without explaining how it helps taxpayers.
Interestingly, Franken spoke for about 20 minutes without once mentioning the name Norm Coleman — who voted for the bailout, along with DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. It might have been awkward to point a finger at Coleman when so many prominent Democrats also gave their assent to the bill.
Franken, who was campaigning Tuesday with Klobuchar, said they talked about the problem of using bailout money for acquisitions.
Congress, he said, “made a judgment that they need to do something quickly,” but that made the need for close oversight even more important. He said it’s too late to rescind the legislation, but that it should be reviewed and rewritten.
Mark Drake, communications director for the Coleman campaign, responded this way:
“The Senator did what his opponent was unwilling to do. He voted to get credit and capital flowing back into the marketplace. The sole purpose of the stabilization package was to unfreeze the credit markets in order to ensure that capital flows through our economy. Hoarding capital or using it to buy banks wasn’t Congress’ intent, which is why Senator Coleman has demanded the Treasury Department ensure that these funds are used as directed by Congress.”