House OK's weaker bailout bonus bill
WASHINGTON - The House is taking another, albeit weaker, stab at trying to keep bailed-out financial institutions from paying employees hefty bonuses after lawmakers had second thoughts about their vote to tax the bonuses away.
A new bill, which passed 247 to 171 yesterday, would allow the bonuses if the Treasury Department and financial regulators determine they are not "unreasonable or excessive."
"No one has the right to get rich off taxpayer money" and "no one should get rich off abject failure," said Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat.
Earlier in the day, Democrats failed to ram through a separate, more punitive measure. Championed by Representative John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, it would have let the attorney general sue employees to return excessive compensation, even if it was promised in a contract.
The daylong debate was cooler than last month's, held after American International Group shelled out $165 million in bonuses to employees, including traders in the financial products unit that nearly brought about the insurance company's collapse. The company has accepted $182 billion in federal aid.
Under the latest House bill, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and financial regulators would set standards for employee compensation at companies that accept bailout money, taking into account an employee's performance, as well as the stability of a financial institution.