Colorado delegation split on Wall Street bailout

(Photo/iChaz, Flickr)
(Photo/iChaz, Flickr)

Like Congress as a whole, the Colorado delegation is divided on how best to right the nation’s shaky economy.

But as Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., belittled the Bush administration’s $700 million bailout package Thursday as a request for a “blank check” from taxpayers, and bickered with each other about “core agreements” of an alternative to the Bush administration’s economic bailout proposal, Colorado lawmakers took opposing stances on whether the government should intervene at all.

Republican Sen. Wayne Allard — a member of the Senate banking committee in the thrust of hammering out an alternative bill — stayed safely on the fence, citing the evolving nature of the situation when asked if Allard would be in favor of any kind of government intervention, according to his spokeswoman.

“[Allard] is keeping all options open and will act in whatever way necessary to defend the American taxpayer and assure the world market that our financial system is safe and sound,” spokeswoman Kaitlyn Knoll said in an e-mail. “This is a serious situation our country finds itself in and he believes we need to take our time to negotiate a deal that is the best for the people.”

“Putting taxpayer money into this market is not going to fix the problem. When you believe in markets, you believe they correct themselves,” said T.Q. Houlton, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Littleton).

Although Tancredo will vote against any bailout package, according to Houlton, the retiring Littleton congressman did make an appeal to his fellow lawmakers to include a provision designed to prevent any illegal immigrants from benefiting from any government bailout package.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Fort Morgan) did not return a call for comment, but on Tuesday issued a statement explaining her opposition to a government bailout with the suddenly familiar juxtaposed themes of Main Street versus Wall Street.

“For years, Americans on Main Street have heard about the lavish excesses of Wall Street. We heard about their mansions, exotic cars and above all, record profits,” Musgrave said. “Now the party is over, and the same bankers are asking working families across the country to bear the consequences of their excess and greed. I refuse to burden families already struggling with soaring energy and food prices with bailing out investment banks that made bad decisions.”

Rounding out the Colorado Republicans, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) was more measured in his response, saying he’s leaning against Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s unpopular proposal.

“I am skeptical of any bailout that leaves taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in bad loans and investments made by irresponsible Wall Street executives,” Lamborn said in an e-mail, adding that 96 percent of the constituents who’ve contacted his office oppose a government bailout.

The fluidity of the situation throughout Thursday was undeniable, but whether things were evolving or devolving depended on who was talking at any given moment. Rumors came and went about deals, stalemates and compromises reached between the two parties, Congress’ two halves and the White House.

On the Democratic side of the aisle, Colorado lawmakers expressed more willingness to approve a bailout — but were also extremely critical of Paulson’s proposal, calling for more regulatory oversight, government ownership in companies that stay afloat thanks to any approved bailout, help for struggling homeowners and consumers, caps on compensation for the CEOs of failing financial institutions and details about the implementation of any bailout package.

“[Rep. John Salazar] needs to see the accountability. He needs to see where we’re going to get the money from. He doesn’t want to see these executives get rich while average people suffer,” said Salazar’s communication director Eric Wortman.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver), also calling the Bush administration’s plan a “blank check,” said Thursday that Congress needs to act to help put the economy back on track.

“I believe, if structured as I have discussed (with strong government oversight, protections and safeguards, and relief for consumers and homeowners), this plan will help stabilize the economy by providing relief to consumers and homeowners. Everyday Coloradans are feeling the brunt of the financial markets and the mortgage crisis and the right plan will help those affected in Colorado get back on the right course,” DeGette said in an e-mail, adding that constituents are contacting her office with concerns about the bailout at an “astronomical rate.”

On Wednesday, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) a member of the House Financial Services Committee, issued a statement expressing concerned for the “ailing economy” and the urgency of the situation, but also skepticism when it comes to the lack of safeguards in Paulson’s original proposal.

“I didn’t hear enough about taxpayer protection — either limitation on executive pay, or about the upside to the potential for taxpayers to gain an ownership interest in the companies,” Perlmutter said. “Furthermore, I didn’t hear enough about accountability (and/or) penalties toward those who gambled away people’s money.”

Rep. Mark Udall (D-Eldorado Springs) could not be immediately reached for comment. But earlier in the week, Udall told the Rocky Mountain News that in order to receive his support a bailout would need to include help for struggling homeowners and limits on government acquisition of private companies’ assets.

Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar’s office did not return a call for comment.

Nothing was resolved Thursday, and lawmakers are expected to continue debating today (Friday) and possibly through the weekend.

“Right now it’s just hard to predict (what will happen). There’s just so many rumors. We don’t know what there will be to vote on,” Wortman said.

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