Senator Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, acknowledged today that his staff agreed to dilute an executive pay provision in the economic stimulus bill that would have applied retroactively to recipients of federal aid -- and possibly blocked the controversial AIG bonuses.
Dodd told CNN the request came from officials at the Treasury Department, whom he did not identify and who said it would cause numerous lawsuits.
Republicans have complained they were frozen out of the final negotiations over the $787 billion stimulus plan. "The fact is that the bill the president signed, which protected the AIG bonuses and others, was written behind closed doors by Democratic leaders of the House and Senate. There was no transparency," said Senator Charles Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
In the CNN interview, Dodd sought to explain what happened: "We wrote the language in the bill to deal with bonuses, golden parachutes, excessive compensation -- executive compensation, that was adopted unanimously by the United States Senate in the stimulus bill.
"That's what I would have liked to have seen maintained in the bill, but for that language there would have been no language in the bill to deal with any of this at all, including language that allowed them to reach back. The administration, it has been widely reported, had problems with that amendment, as others did as well. And they came and said, we'd like to modify that amendment. The alternative, frankly, was that happened to my amendment, what happened to the Wyden-Snowe amendment, and that is it be dropped altogether....
"I was vehemently opposed to that....But again, I want to make the point, there many who were highly critical of the Dodd amendment on executive compensation, excessive compensation. I find it ironic that the very people who were critical of me putting that bill in a month-and-a-half ago are now being critical saying we went too far."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.