ABC News’ Mary Bruce reports: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., blamed Wall Street this weekend for the failing economy. "I think that Wall Street is the villain in the things that happened in the subprime lending crisis and other areas where investigations and possible prosecution is going on," McCain said in an exclusive "This Week" interview with George Stephanopoulos.
McCain also placed responsibility on a "gridlocked" Congress. "I also think that Congress is at fault. We didn’t restrain spending. Spending got completely out of control," he said.
When asked about Congress’ progress in passing the housing bill, McCain said he would have voted for the legislation, but noted, "I also see, again, the influence of special interests." When pressed about why he would support it, McCain explained, "it’s better than nothing."
"I think there was a better way to do it. And I think the special interests probably played a role in the shaping of that legislation," he said.
McCain reluctantly offered support for the controversial provision that would enable federal aid for faltering private institutions, such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. "We reached such a situation that, if these institutions failed, the impact on millions of innocent Americans could be very severe," he said. He noted, however, that "in the case of Fannie and Freddie, we should stop their lobbying activities. We should eliminate the pay and bonuses that these people rake in."
McCain agreed with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., supporter Robert Reich who, along with Republican columnist George Will, has proposed that executives at institutions receiving government guarantees should receive government salaries. "That’s exactly right," McCain said. As Reich explained to Newsweek, "Surely there will be more failures or near failures of financial institutions in the coming months, and American taxpayers will once again be called on to insure their solvency. The important question is what conditions should be applied?"
"We could go out and ask people — the smartest people in America, maybe somebody like Jack Welch or John Chambers or Meg Whitman, people like that — and say, ‘come and take over and do it for $1 a year.’ They’d be willing to do that," McCain said.
McCain also agreed with Reich that the government should "absolutely" get stock of the private organizations in such instances so that taxpayers can benefit.
On controlling energy costs, McCain highlighted his continued belief that consumers would benefit from a gas tax holiday, despite opposition from economists. When asked about concerns that oil and gas companies would reap the benefit, he said, "We wouldn’t let it happen … Americans wouldn’t let them absorb that." When pressed further about how he would prevent it, McCain explained, "We would make them shamed into it. We, of course, know how to — American public opinion. And we would penalize them, if necessary."