CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama on Sunday called for speedy bipartisan consideration of the Bush administration’s $700 billion economic rescue proposal, but cautioned that any final deal must offer protection to taxpayers and homeowners as well as to Wall Street.
“As of now the Bush administration has only offered a concept with a staggering price tag, not a plan,” the senator from Illinois said at an afternoon rally. He added that “in return for their support, the American people must be assured that the deal reflects the basic principles of transparency and fairness and reform.”
Obama said a combination of greed and unfettered free markets had brought the country to “a perilous moment … a financial crisis as profound as any we’ve seen since the Great Depression.”
Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, criticized his opponent for not being more specific in how he would solve the financial crisis.
“I proposed a plan for comprehensive reform of the broken institutions that allowed this crisis to become a grave threat to our economy,” McCain said in Baltimore at the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States. “Senator Obama has declined to put forth a plan of his own. At a time of crisis, when leadership is needed, Senator Obama has simply not provided it.”
Obama offered on Sunday a series of principles that he said should guide lawmakers and administration officials as they deliberate this week.
At the top of that list, he said, is the concept that there is “no blank check,” given the size of the potential exposure to the federal government. “Taxpayers,” he said, “should be protected and should be able to recoup some of this investment.”
In a later statement, Obama’s campaign said that given the potentially unprecedented grant of authority to the Treasury Department, there should be provisions for accountability and independent oversight to protect taxpayers.
Obama also said the final package should help make it possible for homeowners facing foreclosure to stay in their homes. If financial institutions imperiled by the mortgage crisis are protected, the campaign statement noted, then imperiled homeowners should benefit from similar protections.
“We cannot have a plan for Wall Street banks that does not help homeowners stay in their homes and help distressed communities,” his campaign statement said. Obama also reiterated his call for a second stimulus package to be included in the bailout plan.
Spokeswoman Linda Douglass said Obama has consulted with key Democrats and administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.; Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.; Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.; former president Bill Clinton; and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.
McCain has outlined similar principles for his recovery plan, including protecting consumers, helping homeowners stay in their homes and preventing the bailout from benefiting executives at failing institutions. McCain also has proposed a Treasury entity that would identify ailing institutions before they fail.
McCain has not endorsed the plan being negotiated by the administration and Congress, saying he first wants to see the final product. He has not said whether the package should include another economic stimulus.