Carolinas lawmakers in Congress spent Thursday like the rest of America – trying to sort out the ramifications for Main Street of the failures by some of the nation's largest financial institutions.
“Everybody is kind of standing back and trying to figure out what's going on because there's so much,” said U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, a Charlotte Republican. “I'm trying to talk to everyone I can and get their input, people much smarter than me.”
One possible move by Congress – another stimulus package intended to promote spending – seemed stalled.
Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., who chairs the House Budget Committee, said details of a stimulus package were still being worked out, but it's unclear whether it will reach a vote. He said it was unlikely to be similar to this year's other tax rebate of $600 for most individuals. That measure was pushed by the Bush administration. Instead, it might include more spending on unemployment insurance extensions, food stamps, low-income housing relief and infrastructure projects.
“It's clear that the rebates did help,” Spratt said. “They probably kept us from sliding into a recession.”
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said he thought another stimulus package was a bad approach.
“We have to borrow money to do it,” Burr said. “We're competing for the available credit in many cases with the businesses we need to create jobs.”
By late Thursday, Congressional leaders were meeting in an attempt to come up with a comprehensive recovery plan. But there was also plenty of finger-pointing.
“Much of this has happened because of lack of regulation, lack of oversight in terms of the administration making sure that these financial institutions were capitalized as they took risks,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino countered: “Can they name one regulation we eliminated?”
A group of Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, criticizing the bailouts of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and insurer AIG.
Myrick said she opposes regulation but wants to see “some accountability.”
“I believe in free markets, but some of it has gotten out of control,” she said.
Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., called for oversight hearings and said she might support creation of an entity like the Resolution Trust Corp., which helped liquidate assets during the savings and loans collapse of the 1980s.
Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat who serves on the House Financial Services Committee, cautioned that there will be no quick fixes.
“That's what people are looking at, how do you turn this around instantly, and that's not going to happen,” he said. Watt said his advice to people is to go out and buy stocks.
“Hasn't the government already demonstrated to you that they are not going to allow this thing to go out the back door?” he said.