Bailout Battle Turns to Senate

Senate leaders pressed ahead with plans for a Wednesday vote on a $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill that was rejected Monday by the House of Representatives in a close, dramatic vote. "We're all committed to keeping the progress on this rescue package moving forward," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told other senators. "Given the very serious problems we have in the economy," Senator Bernie Sanders said, "what is most important is we get it right, so that two weeks from now or two years

Senate leaders pressed ahead with plans for a Wednesday vote on a $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill that was rejected Monday by the House of Representatives in a close, dramatic vote. "We're all committed to keeping the progress on this rescue package moving forward," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told other senators. "Given the very serious problems we have in the economy," Senator Bernie Sanders said, "what is most important is we get it right, so that two weeks from now or two years from now we are not in the same position we are in today."

Sanders has said that if the Congress concludes that it is necessary to pass the greatest government intervention in history, the cost of a bailout should not be shouldered by the middle class "given the fact that the middle class is declining while the wealthiest people in this country have made out like bandits during the years President Bush has been in office."

Among the wealthiest Americans are the tycoons that ran many of what's left of the Wall Street financial institutions lining up for bailouts.

One of them is now the Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson. He was chief executive of the Wall Street financial behemoth Goldman Sachs. In 2005, Paulson received a $38 million bonus. At the time, it was the largest bonus ever given to a Wall Street CEO.

Sanders has argued -- to Paulson and others -- that those who caused the problem and stand to benefit the most from a government rescue should be the ones to pay for any bailout. The senator has suggested a five-year, 10 percent surtax on individuals making more than $500,000 a year and couples with incomes of more than $1 million. The surtax would yield $300 billion to cover losses the government could incur when it resells troubled mortgages it acquires from banks.

If a bailout is urgently needed, Sanders said, "Let Mr. Paulson and his friends pay for it, not people in Vermont making $30,000 a year."

Sanders also called for a major economic recovery package to put Americans to work at decent wages, a return to stronger regulation of businesses, and the breakup of giant corporations like those that got the country and Wall Street into the crisis. "If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist," Sanders said.

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