Al Franken stated today that he would have voted against the $700 billion bailout package passed by the Senate last night and harshly criticized the legislation. “I hope nobody in Washington felt any pride or sense of accomplishment,” the Democratic Senate candidate said at a press conference at the Capitol. “Because this bill didn’t fix an economy that isn’t working for middle-class families. … It is in fact the exclamation point on eight years of the worst stewardship of our economy since Herbert Hoover, a terrible end to a terrible presidency.”
The bailout package passed by an overwhelming 74-25 margin, garnering support from both Minnesota Sens. Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar. The House voted a similar proposal down earlier this week, with theeight-member Minnesota delegation split evenly, but is expected to take it up again tomorrow. Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley initially voiced opposition to the bailout proposal, but has subsequently stated that he would have “reluctantly” voted in favor of it.
Franken called for a series of alternative steps to strengthen the economy: a moratorium on home foreclosures, a bolstered regulatory framework for the financial sector and an economic stimulus package directed at spending on infrastructure. He also criticized Congress for adding $110 billion in additional proposals to the bill in order to pick up votes from wavering legislators. “This bill should have been either passed on its own merits or not,” Franken said. “I think that what you’re seeing is everything that’s wrong with Washington in one bill.”
Franken took Coleman to task for a comment the incumbent made last week in the Morris Sun Tribune, referring to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as the “quarterbacks” of our economy. “We’re all there, the folks in the huddle and we’re working with them on the play,” Coleman said. “But we have to run the play.”
Franken characterized the comment as emblematic of a lack of oversight being provided by Congress. “That play was a three-page proposal to hand over $700 billion of taxpayer money with no oversight, no accountability, no restrictions on executive compensation,” he said. “Even the Vikings would bench a quarterback who called a play like that.”
Mark Drake, a spokesman for the Coleman campaign, denied that the incumbent’s comments indicated support for Paulson’s initial three-page plan. “You don’t have to agree with every play that’s called if you’re on a team trying to get things done,” he said. “He opposed the initial plan.”
Drake also criticized Franken for failing to take a stand on the bailout package until after it passed the Senate. “After all the heavy lifting, after all the work is done, Al comes in and says, ‘Hey, wait, listen to me, I’ve got something to say,’” Drake said. “Too late Al. You blew it. You had your chance for leadership. You wouldn’t take a stand.”