LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
We turn now to Democratic Senator Chris Dodd, who is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. He's among the lawmakers hammering out the details of this historic financial bailout. Senator, welcome.
Senator CHRIS DODD (Democrat, Connecticut; Chairman, Senate Banking Committee): Good morning, Linda. A lot of chatter there.
WERTHEIMER: Yeah, right. What do you think? Will the Democrats, will you, insist on providing what Mr. Schumer referred to as relief for homeowners?
Senator DODD: Well, look, this is - first, let me say a couple of things, because people obviously want to get some sense. We've been working all weekend, Democrats and Republicans up here together - and people need to know that - in a very positive and constructive environment. That's number one. Number two, I think we're very grateful that a guy like Hank Paulson is in the job he's in. He's a very knowledgeable man. He understands financial services. And the country is lucky to have someone of his talents and abilities there. Thirdly, we do need to act quickly. There's no question about that. And we also need to make sure that the secretary and his team have the authority they need in order to do what needs to be done.
Having said that to you, Linda, I don't think the American public will be shocked to hear, as well, that when you ask for $700 billion, demanding some accountability, transparency, some oversight of this is essential. That's number one. Number two, we want to make sure that taxpayers are going to be the first in line. If these assets get sold and money comes back, we want to make sure that the Treasury, the taxpayer, is the one who's first in line getting relief.
And thirdly, as you've heard people say, including the secretary of the Treasury and the chairman of the Federal Reserve, the core cause of this problem, which persists to this day, is the housing crisis. Nine to ten thousand people every day are going into foreclosure. And so there needs to be something, a part of this plan, that will offer some relief for that, or we'll be back here next month with some variation of this plan. We don't need to have that happen. That's not in any way to deprive the secretary with his authority to act quickly. But quickly is not the most important issue. It's acting responsibly, as well. And I'm confident we can do that.
WERTHEIMER: There seems to be some tension here, though, between the Treasury secretary and his sense of what is a clean bill and the Congress, the Democratic Congress, on what you all believe is necessary.
Senator DODD: Well, Linda, I spent quite a bit of time last night with my colleague from Alabama, Senator Shelby, who is the ranking Republican on the Banking Committee. I ran into several - I ran into Mel Martinez of Florida, yesterday, the Republican senator from that state. I've talked to others here. This isn't just Democrats. I mean, clearly my Republican colleagues - listen, one of the problems, this wasn't a natural disaster like the Gustav hurricane, this was a manmade, avoidable, preventable problem in the country, and a lack of oversight and accountability was one of the problems...
WERTHEIMER: One of the things that people have suggested is that maybe CEOs of these failed companies should not get big payouts.
Senator DODD: Well, that - well, I'll tell you, if we didn't do something about that - if you ended up with a story here that senior executives of some of these failed businesses were going to get parachutes out here, golden parachutes, you'd have a major problem. So there has to be something in here that will also reassure people that we're not going to be lining the pockets of people who contributed to the very failure we're talking about.
WERTHEIMER: Do you think this bailout package is too important, too big, to fail? Are you going to have to let some of these things go in order to get it passed and passed quickly?
Senator DODD: No, no. Be careful here, because there isn't a second act here. This is not one where if this doesn't work we've got plan B. This is plan A, B, C. It's all of them. And so this needs to be done quickly but carefully. And Americans expect us to do that up here. They want us to help and get this done, but the last thing they'd like us to do is to rush something through without having taken the deliberate steps to make sure we're thinking about this. That can be done. We can do both here. And I'm confident we will.
WERTHEIMER: You don't have too much time, because you're about to recess for the election. Do you have any concerns about how much power this one man, Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, will have? Absolute control over spending $700 billion.
Senator DODD: Well, it isn't just this one man. And, again, we've got an election in about 40 days in which we're going to choose a new president in the country. And I presume there'll be a new secretary of the Treasury in about 50 or 60 days. And so it isn't just this man, but someone none of us know anything about. We don't even know who it is who'll be assuming the bulk of the responsibility for handling this for the next two or three years. So the reason why we want to build in here some accountability and oversight into this process, so that we can be careful, is because, frankly, we're in uncharted waters.
WERTHEIMER: Senator Dodd, thanks very much. Democratic Senator Chris Dodd chairs the Senate Banking Committee.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.