MS. O'DONNELL: You know, compared to the figures we're hearing now, the $700 billion that Congress approved earlier this year is really a drop in the bucket. On Tuesday, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve committed to buying up to $500 billion in bad mortgage debt, another $100 billion more will pay down debt from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and another $200 billion will be earmarked to back consumer and small business loans. Add that to previous commitments and taxpayers could be on the hook for $8.5 trillion. That's more than half the nation's annual Gross Domestic Product.
Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz joins me now by phone.
Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You're welcome. Good morning, Norah.
MS. O'DONNELL: You know, when you voted for that initial bailout package, you said it was like bad tasting medicine that was necessary because the alternative of doing nothing was worse. Given now that Congress is poised to come back and pass another stimulus package, on top of all of this money I just talked about of another $500 billion and $700 billion, just how bad a taste does that leave in your mouth?
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, you know, only in the sense that I wish that we weren't in this situation and had we had better regulations from the administration and had we not taken such a hands off approach to the direction that these private markets were going that these major national corporations that have grown too big to fail, if we had --
MS. O'DONNELL: So congresswoman, why shouldn't we be worried about this massive deficit spending?
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I'm sorry?
MS. O'DONNELL: Why shouldn't we be worried about this massive deficit spending?
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, because, you know, all the economic experts, Norah say, that we are at a point in history where we're in the worst recession that we've been in 50 years and President-elect Obama is going to be helping focus on making sure that we can adopt an economic stimulus package that will create the 2.5 million jobs that we are going to need to make sure that people can work at so that we can get this economy turned around. That's going to be the number one priority of the incoming administration, you know, unfortunately, President-elect Obama is inheriting a pretty huge mess that, you know, if we don't focus on getting it turned around then we're going to really have an even worse problem and being in the situation longer than we have to be. But I am concerned I have to admit that the Treasury Secretary, Mr. Paulson, seems to be flailing about a bit, I mean, when I voted for that $700 billion bailout, you know, I expected that the government would be buying mortgages and focusing on making sure, at least in part, that people can stay in their homes that are facing foreclosure. Now, he's abandoned that plan and he seems to be flailing about a bit on where to inject capital into markets and there is a little bit of a risk that the markets are going to become too dependent on that capital.
So that does give me quite a bit of concern.
MS. O'DONNELL: Interesting to hear you say that that you believe the Treasury Secretary is flailing about a bit.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much for joining us and Happy Thanksgiving to you.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You're welcome. Thank you.