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Tri-State area legislators skeptical about bailout proposal

September 23, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

As debate revved up over a $700 billion proposal to bail out financial institutions, some representatives from Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania weren't convinced.

"I think we're in a bit of a panic mode," U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., said.

He said the housing market is in trouble, but other aspects of the economy are in better shape.

Bartlett said he's skeptical about supporting the proposal because he doesn't like the message of "If you fail, you'll get bailed out."

A plan for the government to intervene in a banking crisis emerged after a weekend of discussions among administration officials.

Other members of Congress representing the Tri-State had reservations, too.

"...I urge that we not rush to judgment and take whatever time is necessary on any proposed legislation to deal with the nation's economic problems," U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., wrote in a letter to the Senate's majority and minority leaders. "The public, our constituents, have a great deal of skepticism, which I share, about legislation which will let Wall Street 'off the hook' and pay insufficient attention to Main Street, middle class Americans. It is important to focus the legislation on the hundreds of thousands of homeowners who are at risk of losing their residences to foreclosure."

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"I agree that we must act quickly in some manner, but we must also include provisions to deal with the housing market turmoil that is at the root of this crisis," U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., D-Pa., wrote in a letter to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

"The magnitude of the administration's bailout proposal is without precedent," U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., said in a statement. "As such, I intend to take a long, hard, close look at this bill, and to seriously weigh its consequences - both for the short and long-term."

A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., said he's reserving comment on the plan until after this morning's Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs hearing.

A few Democrats pointedly rebuked the Republican White House.

"As the dust begins to settle one thing is clear - eight years of chronic neglect by the Bush Administration permitted the greed, mistakes, and abuses of power that led to this crisis and we are going to have to take further action to contain the damage," U.S. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., said in a written statement.

On the Senate floor on Monday, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., railed against powers that might be afforded to the treasury secretary under the plan, turning him into "a financial potentate."

"I say no regulations without any safeguards," she said, accusing the Bush administration of being prone to "generate fear."

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., asked that politics be put aside. "The current situation demands real bipartisan cooperation to promote confidence in our nation's financial institutions, protect the finances of West Virginia families and ease the pressure on the financial markets," she said in a written statement.

Jennifer Dougherty, a Democrat challenging Bartlett in Nov. 4 election, said Congress shouldn't rush into a solution like it did in allowing a war in Iraq. She said that more than a few afternoons are needed to look at the root cause of the problem and to build in taxpayer protections.

"It does seem like it's getting the bum's rush," Dougherty said.

Gary W. Hoover Sr., a Libertarian also running against Bartlett, agreed with a proposal to let bankruptcy judges adjust mortgages to keep people in their homes. Hoover said the bailout plan probably is necessary, but the extent of the problem might get worse.

"What troubles me more is I think there's more to come," Hoover said. "We're not getting the whole story."

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