Staten Island Advance - Congressional Candidates Support Bailout -- With Limits
Straniere, McMahon and Cochran weigh in on mess, but Fossella's statements offer no insight
By JUDY L. RANDALL
A bailout -- with contingencies to limit the burden on taxpayers -- is the way out of the nation's financial mess, Staten Island's congressional candidates said yesterday.
But the congressman himself, outgoing Republican Rep. Vito Fossella, did not make himself available for an interview about the crisis that has gripped the nation, and his constituents, for days.
While Fossella's Washington office issued two statements in response to an Advance request for an interview with Fossella, neither offered a hint on how he might vote on a bailout package.
Nor did the statements answer direct questions put forth by the Advance, including whether Fossella is part of the House Republican contingent that are bailout holdouts and where he stands on whether taxpayers should foot part or all of the bailout bill.
Rather, Fossella waxed philosophical, saying: "It reminds me of the quote from Dr. Samuel Johnson, 'Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.'"
Fossella has been silent on a host of issues in recent months.
Mired in personal scandal, he announced in May that he would not seek re-election, even as his political loyalists have tried unsuccessfully to find a way to lure him back onto the ballot.
Although Fossella wasn't talking, those seeking to replace him were.
Said Republican Bob Straniere, who was in Washington yesterday for a series of campaign meetings: "I support the efforts of the Republican conference to slow up the process, so we can see exactly where we are. I would support the modification or deletion of some provisions that don't seem to belong. There is unnecessary government intrusion in some things that the private capital markets can best resolve."
For one thing, Straniere said, he stands with House Republican leaders who have called for the "insuring of mortgages that are in default, rather than their purchase, to limit taxpayer exposure. That can be done if we move prudently and thoughtfully, and if we don't rush into something because members of Congress have to go home to campaign."
Added Straniere: "The pace here is very hectic. There is a real sense of urgency. It is a sober time. People would like to see something accomplished, but there is a sincere difference of opinion on what the vote should be on. I would not call the House Republicans holdouts. There is a feeling that they don't want us to rush into something that we might later regret. It's important to slow the train coming out of the station so we don't wind up with a train wreck further down the line."
Said Democrat Mike McMahon: "With the failure of Washington Mutual and the continued threat of a sustained economic depression, it's clear we must shore up Wall Street and provide the credit to Main Street that enables Americans to operate small businesses, buy homes, take out student loans and open credit accounts. Washington must take urgent, serious action, but it must also protect taxpayers at the same time."
McMahon said that he's "supported the evolving bipartisan agreement, provided it included limits on executive pay, sufficient oversight and new regulation, avenues for homeowners to avoid foreclosure, and an opportunity for taxpayers to recoup their dollars with a share in Wall Street's recovery. The times are serious enough that [Treasury Secretary] Hank Paulson got down on one knee to beg for this package. We cannot let political wrangling cripple our economy."
A CONSERVATIVE STANCE
Tim Cochran, the Conservative in the race for Congress, said he has faith in the Treasury secretary, who has advocated a massive bailout plan, to "lead the country out of its economic crisis mode."
"My vote would be on Hank Paulson," said Cochran. "Hank Paulson is one of the smartest guys in the country. I would have to go by Paulson's guidance on this. Someone has to make a decision. If you pick this apart, it's never going anywhere. Let the president govern and let the Treasury secretary take care of the finances."
"If you are going to fix this thing you have to renew confidence," added Cochran. "You have to get rid of the bad paper and bad loans and, I hate to use this word, get regulated by the government, with good reforms built in. Most of the rules that govern this are antiquated."
Cochran said that as he campaigns in the congressional district, the Wall Street meltdown "is the thing on everybody's lips. No one understands it, and that is where a lot of the fear is coming from."
Like Cochran, Independence Party candidate Carmine Morano said he has faith in the plan put forth by the Treasury secretary.
"At the end of the day there needs to be a bailout; it needs to be done," said Morano. "I never like any regulation of industry. I like a free-market system. But we are beyond that point. We are in such dire financial straits, that we have no alternative. I buy into Paulson's plan. It needs to be done. We have to move forward. But there should be no big golden parachutes [for corporate executives]."
Meanwhile, the remainder of Fossella's statement said: "If we only had a fortnight; it seems like we only have two days. That's what seems to be going on around here. People have realized that we need to take action before Sunday to minimize further potential harm to our financial markets. The final plan needs to be bold and potent and has to bring stability to the markets. It is essential that Democrats and Republicans put party politics aside and recognize the urgent need to bring confidence to the markets. As of now we don't appear to be there. I will reserve judgment until I see a final plan formulated. One that is bold put provides adequate protections for taxpayers and recognizes the fact that Wall Street and Main Street are very connected."
Judy L. Randall is a news reporter for the Advance. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.