'This Week' Transcript: Bonuses, Bailouts and Budgets

CONRAD: I'll tell you who does have the ability, is the man who's running AIG. He is in charge of the company. He could call in those people and say, "Look, you either give it back or you're going to be fired."

There's no way you can justify, when the federal government is putting up $170 billion to rescue that company, that folks who were involved in creating this mess get $165 million in bonuses.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Collins, your Maine colleague, Senator Snowe, said she'd prefer to wipe out any bonuses to any financial institution receiving government money. Do you agree?

COLLINS: Well, first of all, all of us are angry that this happened in the first place. And it could have been prevented. It isn't just the head of AIG. The treasury secretary could have made as a condition of receiving the money a requirement that would have prohibited these bonuses.

But as angry as I am, I agree with my colleague that we need to be careful. And the problem with the Senate bill is it is so wide in its scope that it would apply to tens of thousands of employees all across this country who had nothing to do with getting us in this mess.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's the Senate excise tax proposal, which is only a 35 percent tax, but it would apply to a far broader number of companies.


STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're against both the House and the Senate excise tax?

COLLINS: I'm not against getting the money back. In fact, I feel very strongly that we do need to recoup the money. I'm just not certain that either the House-passed bill nor the Senate bill are the best approach.

We need to look for an alternative means of recouping this money that doesn't cause further harm to our economy as we're trying to get banks lending.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But is there one? Is there another means? I mean, that's the question.

COLLINS: Yes. As Kent Conrad said, I think there are other approaches. We can have the treasury secretary put more heat on AIG. He never should have allowed this to occur in the first place.

We can make sure that there is pressure for people to voluntarily get the money back or else they're going to lose their jobs or there's going to be no further funding for AIG.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Some of that has started to happen. You voted against the House excise tax, correct?

PENCE: I did, George. And, you know, I -- I opposed the Wall Street bailout from the beginning, like most House Republicans. And the truth is, House Republicans share the outrage of the American people over the idea that we would use taxpayer bailout money for executive bonuses.

But, you know, the real answer here, the real option I'll share with my two Senate colleagues, what we ought to say is to AIG, we ought to say, "No more bailout money until AIG recovers all of the more than $200 million that's been distributed in executive bonuses."

What's the Democrats brought to the floor this week was really a constitutionally questionable bill that was really nothing more than a transparent attempt to divert attention away from the fact that, because of Democrats in Congress and the administration, these bonuses were able to be distributed to begin with.

There was language in the bill that was authored by the senator from Oregon and Senator Snowe that would have prevented these bonuses from going forward. And that language was removed, we're told at -- at the urging of the administration.

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