Dole opposes bailout proposal

Sen. Elizabeth Dole came out against President Bush's week-old Wall Street rescue plan on Friday, accentuating the hang-ups the Bush administration has had in trying to work out a deal with Congress and get fellow Republicans on board.

“It violates every principle of American capitalism and free enterprise that I have been taught, and that our country has always held,” said Dole, R-N.C., who is in a tough re-election battle.

Lawmakers spent Friday trying to work out the details of a replacement bill for the original $700 billion plan that was sent over by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke a week ago but declared dead by much of Congress on Wednesday.

Widespread displeasure from the public – sour that typical Americans are losing their homes to foreclosure while Wall Street investment banks likely would be propped up by taxpayers – penetrated Congress.

Dole said North Carolinians don't approve of a bailout.

“Like these folks, I put my faith in our people before our government, and in free enterprise, with appropriate regulation and oversight, before nationalized control of our economy,” she said.

Dole's political opponent, state Sen. Kay Hagan, a Guilford Democrat, accused her of being late to the table with a position on the Bush plan, which much of Congress had largely dismissed by Friday.

“It took her a week to figure out that the Bush administration's Wall Street giveaway was insulting to working families and others who did nothing but work hard and try to make a better life for themselves and their families?” Hagan spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan said.

“She needed to hear from experts about how absurd it is that George Bush wants to give billions of unregulated dollars to the very same people who got us into this mess through a lack of regulation in the first place?”

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said he thought an agreement was near with House Republicans.

“I think they understand this is not as prescriptive as what they first envisioned, and in this design there is very much a marketplace at play, vs. a takeover or bailout,” said Burr, who supports an immediate intervention by the government to prevent a massive failure of the banking system.

Another major hurdle Washington is struggling to overcome is its sales pitch outside the Beltway, a problem that crosses party lines.

“How you instill a sense in the American people of the severity of this while not dismantling the little bit of confidence you have left,” Burr said. He said he'd begun to hear from businesses that have had their loans called suddenly and their credit lines pulled.

Dole, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, said she wanted a negotiated plan to provide “significant and immediate tax credit” for future homebuyers.

Observer staff writer Jim Morrill contributed.