TOP DEM BALKS AS O HINTS AT STIM CHANGE
By GEOFF EARLE
New York Post
February 16, 2009
WASHINGTON - President Obama took heat from a powerful Democratic congressman yesterday after top aides suggested Obama may try to change the already-passed stimulus package he's promised to sign tomorrow.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs "may not like it, but it is going to be enforced," said Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts.
Changing the legislation "is not an option," Frank, the House Financial Services Chairman, told CBS's "Face the Nation."
"This is not, frankly, the Bush administration, where they're going to issue a signing statement and refuse to enforce it. They will enforce it."
Obama has not said exactly what changes he might seek - but one of his problems with the $787 billion economic stimulus bill is that it's tougher on slashing executive pay than he wanted.
His aides said yesterday the administration would find a "workable approach" to executive pay.
But the stimulus package doesn't leave much wiggle room, and the aides did not offer any details.
Obama "shares the outrage that most Americans feel about the spectacle of gaudy bonuses," senior adviser David Axelrod said on "Fox News Sunday."
"We all have the same goal . . . And we want to do something that's workable, and we'll work with [Congress] to get to that point."
Obama has slammed Wall Street execs for taking big bonuses, and issued an executive order imposing new rules limiting the salaries of top honchos to $500,000. But his order did not limit stock options and did not apply to every company getting taxpayer aid.
The stimulus crafted by Congress goes much further - it limits stock options and applies to any financial institution getting federal bailout cash.
CEOs at any company getting bailout money will have bonuses capped at a third of their salaries under the law.
At the largest firms getting the biggest bailouts, the top 20 executives would be covered.
With stock options severely restricted, executive pay at Goldman Sachs,Bank of America and Citigroup would get slashed by millions of dollars.
Obama plans to sign the stimulus tomorrow in Denver.
New York is set to get a windfall of nearly $25 billion from the package, Gov. Paterson said this weekend.
But it could hit some formerly high-flying New York institutions hard.
The administration fears the bill might encourage bailed-out firms to pay back the cash faster than it wants them to so they can again give out big salaries to their top execs.
Republicans continued to bash the plan and the process that created it.
"If this is going to be bipartisanship, the country's screwed," fumed Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
"It was a bad beginning," Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) told CNN.
"Not one Republican was allowed to take part in the process in the House," said Rep. Pete King (R-LI), who voted against it despite billions in transit and Medicaid funds for New York.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) called the stimulus a "big, strong, bold package."