Franken opposes bailoutby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
DFL Senate candidate Al Franken Thursday sharply criticized the Wall Street bailout the Senate approved Wednesday night. Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar voted for plan, along with presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.
St. Paul, Minn. — At a state Capitol news conference Franken called the bailout the exclamation point on eight years of the worst stewardship of the economy since Herbert Hoover.
Franken said he opposes the bailout passed by the Senate because, among other things, it fails to directly help homeowners facing foreclosure and it does not tighten regulation of Wall Street.
"The way I look at this is we're trying to drain a basement that's filled with water," he said. "It's raining out and we have a roof with a huge hole in it and we're draining the basement without fixing the roof."
Despite his sharp criticism of the bailout, Franken said he does not blame anyone who voted for the legislation.
"I'm not upset with Sen. Coleman for voting for it I understand why he voted for it," he said. "As I said this is a tough call. What I'm upset about is that he has been part of the problem for six years."
In addition to wanting more financial sector oversight, Franken has been calling for a moratorium on home foreclosures.
While Franken didn't criticize Coleman for his yes vote, he did accuse Coleman of being a cheerleader for the plan and cited a Mankato Free Press story that quoted Coleman referring to the proposed bailout as something that could possibly earn taxpayers a 10-to-20-fold profit.
Franken also ripped Coleman for campaign contributions Coleman has received from special interests including the financial services industry.
Coleman campaign spokesman Mark Drake stood off in the background during Franken's news conference and afterward criticized Franken for waiting until after the Senate vote to weigh in on the bailout question.
"Well, Al Franken has finally taken a stand," he said. "He's taken a position. He's emerged from where ever he's been over the last several of days."
Prior to casting his yes vote, Norm Coleman told reporters that calls to his office were running strongly against the bailout, but that he would rather lose an election than see the economy crumble.
Coleman did not make himself available to reporters Thursday.
"Minnesotans are going to decide what they think about this obviously, and we think that they're going to look at this as a whole and see the new safeguards, see the greater transparency, see that there are no golden parachutes, see some of the tax relief that's in there and I think they're also going to look at some of the leadership Coleman demonstrated," said his spokesman Mark Drake. "This is someone who can work with Democrats."
While Franken said he's not criticizing Coleman for his yes vote, Franken's current TV ad seeks to closely link Coleman to the financial meltdown.
The Coleman campaign says Franken too has collected campaign contributions from Wall Street.
Carleton College political scientist Steven Schier said Franken's opposition to the bailout leaves the DFLer with a strong populist campaign issue. But Schier said Franken's position does not come without political risk.
"He's got a fine line here," he said. "Because given the Franken attacks, Coleman could do a response indicating that Klobuchar, and Obama and Coleman all agree that it's necessary for economic security that we pass this deal yet Al Franken opposes. What's wrong with Al Franken's judgement?"
Independence Party Senate candidate Dean Barkley said he would have reluctantly voted for the bailout. Barkely said he hopes all the talk about the national debt in the context of the bailout will lead to some big changes in Washington.
"Everyone's been shaken by this credit meltdown fear, and I think Congress for once may be willing to say, okay we're going to stop this spending binge and we're going to start taking a tough look at how we're spending our money," he said.
Minnesota's three major-party U.S. Senate candidates meet in Rochester Sunday evening for their first general election debate.
- All Things Considered, 10/02/2008, 4:49 p.m.