MEDIA AVAILABILITY WITH HOUSE MINORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH); REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN); REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA)
SUBJECT: AIG BONUSES
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REP. BOEHNER: Five weeks ago, when we were debating the stimulus bill, I was making the point that we had a 1,100-page bill that no one had ever read -- clearly no one had ever read. The president signed this bill into law and then the president said he didn't know what was in it. Obviously, they didn't read it either.
And the bill that's on the floor today to try to correct this problem with AIG bonuses is nothing more than a sham. It's nothing more than an effort to cover somebody's rear end because of the political damage that's out there.
And the fact is that we're at a point where we ought to be asking questions. Who in the conference between the House and Senate knew about this language?
Who were the people who voted and agreed to put this language in the bill? How long did Secretary Geithner know about this problem? And who on his staff participated in writing the language? These are the questions that I want answered, and I hope today on the floor of the House, when we're debating this bill, that we get some answers to this.
But it's -- it should be noted that we have a better alternative that we're going to offer today. A bill was introduced by our freshman member several days ago that says simply we don't want 90 percent of it back; we want all of the money back -- and requires the secretary of the Treasury within two weeks to develop a plan to get all of the money back.
REP. CANTOR: House Republicans share the outrage of the American people that AIG would use taxpayer dollars to award executive bonuses during this economic crisis. And House Republicans believe that the American people deserve to get 100 percent of their money back.
As importantly, though, the American people need to know that this entire crisis could have been avoided. Senator Wyden authored an amendment banning executive bonuses, and that amendment was stripped in the dark of night, at the 11th hour, in the stimulus bill. Senator Dodd took responsibility yesterday on CNN for having removed the language, but he repeatedly said that, quote, "The administration had a problem with the language."
The Democrat plan to enact a 90 percent tax on AIG employees is just a cynical attempt to divert attention away from the truth that Democrats in Congress and this administration made these bonus payments possible.
House Republicans have proposed legislation that would deny AIG one more dime of bailout money until the American people are -- recover 100 percent of these bonuses. But Democrats have blocked the Republican plan from coming to the floor. But we'll bring it in the previous-question vote today.
Lastly, the American people have a right to get 100 percent of their money back. The American people have a right to know why Democrats blocked efforts to ban executive bonuses in the stimulus bill. And the American people have a right to know what this administration knew and when they knew it.
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R-NC): We hear over and over again the words responsibility and accountability.
And yet we never see the Democrats in Congress owning up to their responsibility or creating accountability. This today is an attempt to avoid responsibility and avoid accountability.
The Democrats got themselves into this situation. Now they are trying to get out of it, with the help of Republicans. We have an alternative. They will not allow that alternative to be heard.
As my colleagues have said, we need the answers to a lot of questions, which they are not willing to answer. I asked one simple question yesterday from one member. Why did you vote against our opportunity to get back 100 percent of this money? They don't want to answer those questions.
I think it's the responsibility, of Americans represented by these Democrats, to keep asking those questions over and over and over. Let's see if they want to live up to their rhetoric of responsibility and accountability.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): Now we know that the Obama stimulus bill was really the AIG bonus protection plan. And we don't know who put the clause into the bill. Was it the administration or Senator Dodd? We're waiting for answers to find out.
It's a shame that the Republicans weren't allowed to have any part of the stimulus bill and that we weren't allowed to read this bill, before it was voted on.
The leader is right. Leader Pence is right. The American people deserve 100 percent of this money back. And it looks like this is just an effort to have one more coverup by this administration.
REP. BOEHNER: Questions.
Q Mr. Boehner, do you continue to support Secretary Geithner in that position?
REP. BOEHNER: As I said yesterday, I think, the Treasury secretary is on thin ice. And the sooner we get answers, to the questions we've posed, the better off he might be as well.
Q It sounds like you're tiptoeing around that a little bit. Thin ice, or do you think he should go?
REP. BOEHNER: Listen, as most of you know, I tend to be fair. We don't know what the answers to the questions are. And frankly I don't think we ought to be writing the prescription until we've found out what the disease is.
Q Is there any indication yet of any kind of quid pro quo? I mean, Obama and Dodd were the two highest recipients of AIG campaign cash in 2008.
REP. BOEHNER: We just don't know. That's the point. We're going to pose a lot of questions today because we need a lot of answers.
STAFF: Last question.
Q What do you think Bernanke's actions -- (off mike)?
REP. BOEHNER: Which action?
Q The Federal Reserve injecting massive amounts of money --
REP. BOEHNER: Well, I think that what they've recognized is that there's no way they're going to get additional money out of the Congress for these continued financial bailouts. And I think that's why the Treasury yesterday decided to proceed on their own. Thank you.
STAFF: One more. One more right here.
Q Mr. Boehner, will Republicans oppose the Democrats' bill? It's unlikely your alternative is going to get heard. Will the Republican conference oppose the Democrats -- (off mike)?
REP. BOEHNER: We're not whipping this. Members will make their own decisions. But you can put me in the "no" column.
Q Thank you.