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Winston-Salem Journal - Watt, Cobb Disagree On Bailout Plan

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Location: Winston-Salem, NC

Winston-Salem Journal - Watt, Cobb Disagree On Bailout Plan

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, D-12th, said he voted for the $700 billion federal bailout plan for the financial industry to ease the credit crunch, so lenders will provide money to businesses and individuals.

"It wasn't about a bailout for Wall Street," Watt said. "It was about preventing pain on Main Street."

Watt, 63, is running for his ninth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing a district that stretches from Charlotte to Greensboro. A native of Charlotte, Watt is a lawyer.

Watt said he voted for the plan to prevent "a lockdown in credit." Many employers borrow money to meet their payrolls and buy inventories, he said.

In next month's election, Watt is facing Republican challenger Tyrus R. "Ty" Cobb Jr.

Cobb, 68, who lives in Rowan County, is in his first run for public office.

He said he supports cutting government spending and probably would have voted against the bailout plan.

Cobb said that Watt should have called for more oversight of the financial industry because he is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which is part of the Financial Services Committee. Those committees oversee the faltering government-backed mortgage companies, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Cobb said that Watt's subcommittee "was supposed to be looking out for the American people, and not his party." He said that Watt was not representing his constituents' concerns.

Watt said that Cobb's assertions are unfounded.

Watt said he has spoken publicly for more oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ever since he first took office in 1993.

He said that some banks and other financial institutions have engaged in predatory lending practices. They and stock brokers helped cause the financial crisis, he said.

"It is his (Cobb's) party members that have failed in oversight," Watt said. "They believe that the market will take care of itself."

On other issues, Watt said he supports universal health care and more government money for states to implement No Child Left Behind legislation. He also said he supports equal rights for all Americans and affirmative action.

Cobb said that, if elected, he would propose cutting the budgets of federal agencies by 10 percent, except for the U.S. Department of Defense and law-enforcement such agencies as the FBI. Their budgets would be frozen at the levels of the previous year.

He also said that members of Congress should set the example and take a 10 percent cut in their salaries and expenses.

Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, proposed a similar bill during his first debate with Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee.

Watt said he supports Obama's proposed timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq. The federal government is spending $10 billion a month to maintain troops in that country.

"We are spending money that we can't afford," Watt said. "Our economy is in the tank. We got to get out of there."

Cobb is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and a Vietnam War combat veteran. He said that he supports the war in Iraq but not an indefinite stay for U.S. troops. He opposes any public statement that gives an exact timetable of withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

The war on terrorism costs the U.S. government up to $150 billion a year, but fighting terrorists is keeping the country safe, Cobb said. "If the country is not secure, then everything else pales in comparison," he said.

He also said that he supports offshore oil drilling as part of a comprehensive energy plan. Each state that allows it would share the oil revenues.

Cobb said he wants to end the partisan politics in Washington, help the country reduce its $400 billion deficit and improve the economy.

On other issues, Cobb said he supports equal rights, affirmative action and securing the country's borders. He believes in Americans' right to bear firearms and that English should be the country's official language.

Cobb said he believes he has a good chance of defeating Watt despite the incumbent's past success at the polls.

Watt, however, said he is running on his record of 16 years in Congress and described the election as a referendum on his representation.

"I don't expect that everyone who lives in the 12th district would agree with every vote that I have taken," Watt said. "It is not about my opponent."

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