By: Peter Cook and Kristin Jensen
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Americans are “angry” about the bailout of the nation's banks and the bonuses paid to executives, as they struggle with unemployment and the cost of living.
“The American people are very angry about it,” Pelosi said in a Bloomberg Television interview today. Bonuses being paid by some of the same institutions that received federal money “certainly” make her angry as well, Pelosi said.
The issue plays into decisions made by Congress, the California Democrat said. “It's just really not good for our economy, our middle class and our democracy,” she said. Still, she said Congress wouldn't step in to regulate pay at companies unless there was a “taxpayer implication.”
For members of Congress trying to address the concerns of their constituents, job creation “trumps almost everything,” Pelosi said. Instead of another stimulus package, lawmakers are looking at separate initiatives to spur growth, such as tax credits for businesses that hire new workers, she said.
Changes in the health-care system will also affect Americans, who are largely in favor of a new government-run insurance program, Pelosi said. She said she has the votes among Democrats in the House to pass that so-called public option and the question now is how to structure it.
Public Option Debate
The main debate in the House is whether a public option, which would compete with private insurers such as Indianapolis- based WellPoint Inc., should have to negotiate rates with providers. The alternative is for the program to peg its rates to some percentage above the lower level paid by Medicare, the government program for the elderly.
“We have a couple of good options,” Pelosi said. “I don't think we have a bad option in the mix.”
Republicans and some Senate Democrats oppose the public option altogether and it isn't included in one of the two committee measures now being stitched together by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Senate and House also differ over how to pay for legislation that tops $800 billion over 10 years.
House Democrats opted for a surtax on couples who make more than $1 million a year. The rest of the cost would be covered by more than $500 billion in savings, Pelosi said. Senate Democrats are going for a tax on insurers that offer high-end benefits plans, an idea opposed by unions, which say it would hurt too many workers.
“It's not popular in the House and it's not popular in the public,” Pelosi said of the so-called Cadillac tax. When it comes time for the House and Senate to come up with a compromise bill, “perhaps we'll end up with some hybrid,” Pelosi said.