Speaking at a Democratic Party dinner in Ohio Sunday, Hillary Clinton said she voted in 2009 for the second wave of funds to be used for the bank bailout because President Obama asked Senate Democrats to do so and because the package included money to help the beleaguered U.S. automobile industry.
“There was a bill that mixed money for the auto rescue and money for other bailouts,” Clinton said in Columbus, Ohio, Sunday night. “That was not an easy vote and I respect those who voted against it. But I’ll tell you this. I voted for it. Then President-elect Obama asked us to vote for it. I decided it was more important to save the auto industry and save our economy, and I am so glad I did.”
As the primary contests move through the Midwest, Clinton and her campaign have accused Sanders in recent weeks of opposing the auto bailout because he voted against the large financial package even though some money ultimately went to help the car manufacturers. But Sanders had previously voted in favor of a stand-alone bill for the auto bailout that never passed, and he quickly cried foul.
Rewind to 2008, when then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton argued that one of the reasons she voted in favor of the so-called Wall Street bailout was because “the banks of New York” and “other financial institutions” were some of the biggest winners in the deal.
During an October 2008 interview with a New York radio station, Clinton said the banks would benefit, not other industries or families who lost personal assets in the recession, and that influenced her decision to ultimately vote for the controversial legislation.
WNYC’s anchor Brian Lehrer asked about whether the bailout would result in a large transfer of wealth or jobs from New York to Washington.
“No, I don’t agree with that,” she responded in the interview, which followed the first round of voting on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). “You can’t possibly staff up the Treasury to that amount. No, look, I think the banks of New York and our other financial institutions are probably the biggest winners in this, which is one of the reasons why in the end, despite my serious questions about it, I supported it.”
The Sanders campaign even tweeted this old Clinton line from the radio archives, which the Republican National Committee resurfaced last week.
"The banks of NY and our other financial institutions are probably the biggest winners." - @HillaryClinton on the "auto" bailout in 2008.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 10, 2016
From the beginning, Sanders’ underdog campaign has focused significantly on his opposition to the Wall Street bailout. He has said one of the key differences between him and Clinton is that she supported the bank bailout, and, jumping off from those votes, has pointed to her paid speeches at Wall Street firms to imply that she is too cozy with the banking industry.
Back in 2008, Clinton did address her reservations about the bailout bill and said the money needed to be accompanied by new regulations to prevent future crises. “The American people deserve to know that this isn't a blank check,” she wrote at the time in an op-ed piece. “While the need to address the current crisis is clear, I will only support steps that will prevent a widening crisis, tackle the worst kinds of abuse tolerated for too long by the Bush administration, and address the root problems at work.”
Still, Clinton has dramatically ramped up her rhetoric against the banks on the campaign trail this go-around and often says she would use powers designated from financial regulation legislation to pass stricter Wall Street reforms and potentially break up large banks if “they pose a systemic risk.”
“Look what happened in '08, AIG, Lehman brothers an investment bank, helped bring our economy down... I've said, if the big banks don't play by the rules, I will break them up,” she said during a CBS debate in January.
Then during a debate in February, she added, “We’ve got to be prepared to stop these guys if they ever try to use their economic power once again to hurt the economy and to hurt so many Americans.”