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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of Motions to Suspend the Rules

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF MOTIONS TO SUSPEND THE RULES -- (House of Representatives - March 19, 2009)

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Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Speaker, I yield as much time to myself as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, people across the country are rightly outraged by the egregious nature of the AIG bonuses. It is unconscionable for AIG to pay out $165 million in bonuses to the same top executives who mismanaged the company to the point of failure.

It is fundamentally wrong to be rewarding the very same people who ran AIG while it was losing billions and billions of dollars with risky schemes that directly led to the staggering $170 billion bailout last year. It is a stunning example of greed and shamelessness, and it is gross mismanagement and misuse of taxpayer funds that borders on criminal.

People in Maine, my district, and around the country are angry. I have heard from hundreds of my constituents sharing their outrage. One resident of Wells, Maine, in the straightforward way that my constituents do, wrote to me in this manner. He said, ``Let AIG fail. Let those greedy, blood-sucking executives find out what it means to lose their life savings. You need to tell those that want our tax dollars, these are the conditions, clear and simple. And if you don't want to use it for what we want, you will get nothing.'' He went on to say, ``It has become a sad day in our history when we have to lose our retirements, and then have to give billions to those that have caused the problems, and then, in turn, they give it to themselves as bonuses.''

Another Mainer wrote, ``I am writing to you because I am absolutely appalled that we, as citizens and taxpayers, have given billions of dollars to AIG, only to have that company give us all the proverbial finger and pay out $165 million in bonus money to their staff. AIG's conduct, given their own monetary losses that are in the billions of dollars, is criminal.''

The small businesses in my State of Maine are doing what businesses around the country are doing; they are diversifying, they are freezing wages. They are using their own resources, adopting cost-saving measures, whatever it takes to stay in business and keep people in their jobs.

Like so many businesses around the country, a businessman in Portland recently chose to dig into his own pocket and use his own money so he wouldn't have to lay off his employees. And just last week, I met with the owners of a small machine shop that had been growing. They came to me with questions about how they could better use the money in the recovery package to stay in business just to stay afloat. They weren't looking to line their own pockets, they were asking for help to keep people employed and keep their business afloat. These are the types of people who are stung the hardest by the AIG bonuses.

Families and businesses in Maine and across the country are struggling to make ends meet and stay in their homes. And they are helping each other out of a shared sense of responsibility. Meanwhile, on Wall Street, we see executives who seem to think they live by a different set of rules and who refuse to take responsibility for the damage they have caused. It is a perfect example of why we have, and will continue to have, a commitment to transparency and oversight in government.

When the House passed TARP last year before I was here, this type of abuse is exactly what the American people were afraid of. We knew there was a chance of waste, fraud or abuse, and now it has come to light. We are here today to fix it. We will continue to forge ahead to fix our struggling economy.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I wasn't here. Just to remind you, although I'm happy to be here to manage this bill, I was not here when many Members of the House voted on that particular bill. But I do want to say all of us in this Chamber had the opportunity to vote on the conditions on the TARP to make sure we dealt with things like executive compensation, and many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, in fact, most of them, refused to vote in favor of those conditions. So we have had those opportunities to do that over time.

I do agree it should be further investigated exactly how things happened here. We are in one of the most tumultuous times in our economy than any of us have ever faced or previous generations have faced. But I personally voted in favor of those conditions of the TARP. And I do find it a little disingenuous to find many of my new colleagues, whom I am just getting to know, so anxious to talk about executive compensation, capping executive compensation, looking at this, when it was an issue that only probably weeks or months ago they wouldn't have gone near with a 10-foot pole. In fact, they wouldn't even have discussed this. They would have said leave business to itself, we're not going to get involved in this particular issue. This is an issue that has concerned me and my constituents back in my home State for a long time. I was proud to vote in favor of the conditions of the TARP.

And I want to remind my colleagues again we are here today to allow this rule to come to the floor so that we can have full debate on all of the opportunities afforded to us in this bill and this will be with us in only moments as soon as we vote in favor of this rule.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Speaker, just in a quick answer to my good colleague from the Rules Committee, Mr. DIAZ-BALART, I was proud to vote in favor of this stimulus bill and very happy to vote for things that are helping my district at this very moment around health care and jobs and road construction and things that are desperately needed in my State.

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Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Speaker, I do want to thank the gentlelady from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx) for bringing in my voting record and remind her that I was very proud to vote for the stimulus or recovery package, whichever we choose to call it, and have already stated that on the record.

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Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Speaker, I can be very brief in my close, and I thank all of the eloquent speakers from our side who have come to the floor to talk about this important issue and the importance of voting on it today.

Let me be clear, a ``no'' vote, a ``no'' vote on this, is to allow the executives at AIG to keep their bonuses.

Now, how many people have come before us today to say it is unconscionable to think that they would take taxpayers' dollars to fund a misguided scheme, and then be given bonuses by the taxpayers? It is unthinkable. A ``no'' vote here is unthinkable.

We have talked about a whole variety of things from each other's voting records to the constitutionality, to a whole range of issues that do and don't apply to what we are talking about right now, and that is to allow a rule to allow us to proceed with doing something about the executive bonuses at AIG.

How many people have come before us? How many constituents have we heard from who have said: You have got to do something about these bonuses. I am struggling. I am struggling to keep my business going. I am struggling to keep my home going. Numerous things we have all heard from all of our constituents that have said to us, do something, do it right now. That is what people are asking us, in this extreme difficult economy where people are struggling every day, where businesses are struggling, where in my district we are hearing a layoff notice almost every day. People are saying to us, it is time to do something. That is why we are here.

I urge a ``yes'' vote of my colleagues on the previous question and on the rule.

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