She was on the Rachel Maddow Show last night talking about the bill she plans to introduce that would cap the salaries at the financial institutions that are receiving bailout money at $400,000, which is what President Obama will be getting paid per year. She also said there is support for her bill in the Senate, and that her office phone has been ringing off of the hook with citizens saying that they support her. She was surprised that a little common sense on the Senate floor would cause such a stir.
Full transcript of the segment below.
Here is the transcript of her segment via LexisNexis:
MADDOW: * * * Joining us now is Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. She`s a member of the Commerce Committee. Sen. McCaskill, kind of you to come back on the show. Thanks for being here.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D), MISSOURI: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Last week, you took to the Senate floor to talk about executive pay and bonuses. You said you were mad. You described Wall Street executives as idiots. I understand your passion on this subject, but what can practically be done to recoup money that the banks have already spent?
MCCASKILL: Well, we`ve got to change the rules. We`ve got to make them understand with a law that as long as they are on the hook to taxpayers, there is a different reality. It`s not the old days. It is a new day, and that day means that until they pay back taxpayers, I believe that no one at their companies should make more than the president of the United States. And that`s the law I`ve introduced.
And I intend on pushing that or something similar to get that law enacted so these guys understand that they can`t keep compensating themselves when they are this close to extinction and the taxpayers are keeping them alive with their money.
MADDOW: Any support from your colleagues in the Senate thus far on the $400,000 proposal?
MCCASKILL: You know, there is support, not just with my colleagues. But it has been amazing the response we`ve gotten from the public. Who would know? Who would have figured that a little bit of common sense on the Senate floor would get this kind of reaction that our phones are ringing off the hook? Our server is overloaded. People all over the country saying, "Go get them. Go get them. You said exactly what we`re thinking."
So I think that we have tapped into a vein. And after all, we work for the American people. We don`t work for anybody else but the people that sent us here. And I think we will get something done on this.
MADDOW: Now, the second $350 billion of the TARP money has been released. Will it have better oversight? Will it have more strings than the first half, or is that still a work in progress now?
MCCASKILL: I mean, I`ve got to be honest. I think it still is a work in progress. I think it is going to be better. I think this administration understands the anger that is out there.
And really, Rachel, the problem is, we can`t recover in this country until the American people have confidence. And if you are so damn mad, you can`t think straight. It is hard to be confident of anything. So we`ve to get this fixed or people are not going to feel good about our economy and they`re not going to start behaving in a way that will allow us to recover.
MADDOW: Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has recommended mandating that 90 percent of the money that is given to the banks go toward issuing loans. That would be a draconian string. Would you support something like that?
MCCASKILL: Well, I`m a little worried about that, because I think we got into this mess in the first place by people making loans they shouldn`t have made. I think that`s how we got here.
So - and the only way banks make money is to loan money. So I don`t think we need to be micromanaging what loans they are making, but we do need to micromanage what salaries they are paying themselves and what bonuses they are taking especially since it is very clear that the concept of bonus should not apply to a bank that`s in fact ran itself into the ground with bad decision-making.
MADDOW: I think that, as Americans, we are sort of hard-wired to believe that businesses - all sorts of private industry - ought to be - could probably run themselves better than any government agency rather than anybody works in the public sector can tell them how to do it.
That said, I sort of feel like my pet bunny could do a better job running the bank right now than the people who lost this many trillion dollars with the ridiculous non-commonsensical things that they did in the financial industry in the past year. I sort of feel like nationalizing the banks at this point might be the safest thing to do.
MCCASKILL: Well, I`m not sure that`s the answer. But it is hard to understand why there wasn`t a turnover in the leadership in these institutions. I mean, generally, in America, when you flame out, you lose your job. But in this instance, the people who got us in this mess, by and large, remain in control of these very large financial institutions that control our destiny in terms of turning around the credit market.
So that is another problem with confidence. I would think that there would be a gut-check here at these companies and with their board of directors. And maybe they should say, "Hey, you know, you are a nice guy. But you know, we`ve got to move on because people don`t have confidence in us anymore."
MADDOW: Sen. McCaskill, one last question -
MADDOW: We mentioned earlier that the president is going to be nominating one of your Senate colleagues, Republican Senator Judd Gregg to be Commerce Secretary. Do you have any thoughts on that? And is the Secretary of Commerce one of those jobs for which Democrat versus Republican is not an important criteria?
MCCASKILL: Well, I mean, I think the hard thing about this, Rachel, is that this is Barack Obama being as disciplined as president as he was when he was a candidate. His message was sincere. If we don`t change the culture from Democrat versus Republican to public policy that we can believe in, then we are in trouble.
And I think, in many ways, Judd Gregg will be a strong Secretary of Commerce if, in fact, that is the announcement tomorrow. And we`ve got to get away from this idea that it is D versus R, because frankly, we`ve tried that and it didn`t work so well regardless of whether the D`s are in control or the R`s are in control.
I think we`ve got to continue to work on that compromise that brings everybody together, because that`s how we`re going to tackle the really hard stuff, the entitlement programs, Social Security - all the things that we`ve got to fix for your grandchildren, my grandchildren, everybody`s grandchildren to have a shot at any kind of prosperity 20, 30, 40 years down the lines.
MADDOW: I will say looking back at economic policies over my lifetime, if I had to pick ones when the D`s were in charge versus when the R`s were in charge, I would pick the D`s.
MCCASKILL: We`re still in charge.
MCCASKILL: We`re going to hear some dissenting voices, but until Barack Obama abandons his principles that are progressive principles, then I think we all need to kind of keep our powder dry and be supportive of his efforts to work across the line.
MADDOW: Senator Claire McCaskill in Missouri, so great to have you on the show. Thanks for making time tonight.
MCCASKILL: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: I will actually thank Senator McCaskill twice tonight. She sponsored the creation of a commission to investigate the massive misuse of billions of federal dollars in Iraq. So thanks to Senator McCaskill for that and to other members of Congress who made that happen.
Honestly, the more I see of Senator McCaskill, the more I love her. I can't figure out why the Democrats don't use her more on TV. Not only does she really break the issues down in a way that even the more inept person can understand, but she's always on point.
Now there are reports that President Obama will also be going down this path limiting what bailed out banks can do with the taxpayer money they are receiving.
The Obama administration is tackling the bailout of the battered financial sector on two tracks: overhauling how the government spends the money while devising new executive compensation restrictions for banks that get it.
Administration officials said the pay limits could be announced this week, but said the more complicated task of setting up a new framework for rescuing the nation's ailing banks would have to wait until early next week.
Administration officials say rules under consideration would prohibit institutions receiving "exceptional assistance" from giving severance payments to their top 55 executives. Their bonus pools would be reduced by about 40 percent from the 2007 level. Such companies would include Citigroup Inc., insurance giant American International Group Inc. and automakers General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, all of whom received bailouts under the Bush administration.
Of course the Republicans are whining about nationalizing the banks and telling them what they can or cannot do, but I honestly am not sympathetic to that position. Those banks are taking money from taxpayers and the government, so I feel that we should be able to place limits on what they can do with that money. Most people don't get hefty checks when they FAIL, they simply get fired.
But I'm thinking this is a fight the Democrats will be willing to have, and I think they will continue to have a majority of the public's supporting their position.
UPDATE: There is a diary on the recent list in which people were inquiring whether Senator McCaskill regrets/is willing to repudiate her TARP vote. Well, the answer is yes. This transcript is from this morning's "American Morning" on CNN.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, Congress may be finding its backbone when it comes to the bailout. The House Banking Committee is expected to hold hearings on the latest bank scandals next week. And over in the Senate, a note to those bailout barons on Wall Street. Don't make Senator Claire McCaskill angry. You won't like her when she's angry.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: They don't get it. These people are idiots. You can't use taxpayer money to pay out $18 billion in bonuses.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Ever since Claire McCaskill took to the Senate floor to publicly shame those bailed out financial firms that handed out billions of dollars in bonuses, the Missouri Democrat say she's gotten one basic response. You go, senator.
(on camera): Did that feel good?
MCCASKILL: Oh, yes. It felt great. And what felt even better is the reaction that we've gotten from around the country. Our phones won't stop ringing. The e-mail traffic is unbelievable. It's hard to be confident about our financial system when you're so damn mad.
ACOSTA (voice-over): There is already a new bailout shocker. Citigroup, a firm that received $45 billion in taxpayer money, just announced its former CEO, Sandy Weill, will no longer use the company's private jets. The company says Weill had used one of its planes to fly his family to a posh Mexican resort over the holidays.
MCCASKILL: Taxpayers are on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars in their institutions. They own the taxpayers something other than business as usual.
ACOSTA: McCaskill has introduced a bill that have to pay bailed out CEOs at $400,000 a year, the same as the president's salary. A staunch ally, the president during the campaign, she may be gaining traction.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll ensure that CEOs are not draining funds that should be advancing our recovery.
ACOSTA: The administration is looking at ways to crack down on executive bonuses, but Republicans in Congress are skeptical.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: I really don't want the government to take over these businesses and start telling them everything about what they can do. Then you truly have nationalized the business.
ACOSTA: You voted for the bailout.
MCCASKILL: I did.
ACOSTA: Any regrets?
MCCASKILL: Sure. I clearly learned my lesson going forward. We've got to put a lot more controls in these bills, making sure that these executives understand that taxpayers cannot afford to pay them what they're used to getting paid.
UPDATE I really wish I'd discovered you can find transcripts on LexisNexis before now! I love it! Anywhoo, here she is on Hardball this evening (Seriously, is she the ONLY Democratic Senator?). I'm posting the entire segment with her for any who are interested, I put the part that's relevant to this diary in bold:
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, Wells Fargo, Click for Enhanced Coverage Linking Searchesthe bank, has become the latest bank to thumb its nose, if you will, at the American taxpayer. The bank took $25 billion in bailout money from the government. That`s us. And now it`s planning a corporate junket at Las Vegas casinos to honor their top mortgage lenders.
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri wants to cap salaries of banking executives at 400K a year. That`s 400,000 bucks, which is what the president gets. She`s a member of the Commerce and Armed Services Committee.
Senator McCaskill, I`m a big fan of yours, but I have to ask you, do you really, really believe that you have the constitutional authority to cap salaries in the private sector?
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Only...
MCCASKILL: Only if -- in very limited circumstances, Chris -- only if they are dependent on public money and only until they pay us back, the public money that we have given them.
It`s none of our business what people make in the private sector, unless the taxpayers are on the hook for hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars.
MATTHEWS: Well, how do you pass this law? Let`s get to the fine details. How do you get a law signed by the president, passed by both houses, that says employers, big shots at these big firms in New York mainly, can`t give themselves more than $400,000 a year? How do you get that into law and make it actually happen, not just talk about it?
MCCASKILL: I believe -- I believe we have got a real -- real chance of getting that done, Chris, because we`re going to try to offer an amendment on this bill in the next few days which will basically say, going forward, if you want federal money, then you must agree, as a condition of getting public money, that everyone who works at your company must limit themselves to $400,000, $500,000 a year.
And, if you want to make more, if you want to have deferred compensation, that`s fine, but you can`t get it until you pay us back.
MATTHEWS: Are you going to get that past the big-shot senators from New York, like Chuck Schumer and the new senator up there in Gillibrand? Are you going to get that past Chris Dodd and Lieberman, the ones who have all those Wall Street people in their states? They are not going to go along with this, are they?
MCCASKILL: I don`t need...
MATTHEWS: That`s their constituency.
MCCASKILL: The good is, I don`t need every vote.
MCCASKILL: But I think there`s wide support for this, Chris. I really do.
My phones have not stopped ringing since we proposed this.
MATTHEWS: Do you think President Obama will sign a bill that cuts the salaries of people that may be his contributors next time around?
MCCASKILL: I`m optimistic that he will. And I am busy trying to work with the White House as we speak to work out this -- this plan.
I`m going to ask you the same question I asked Governor Charlie Crist, who was on. He`s from Florida. He`s a Republican. I guess you would call him a moderate Republican, because he doesn`t want Barack Obama to fail as president. I guess that`s a moderate these days.
MATTHEWS: He wants him to succeed, he said, which is refreshing to hear from any politician, especially one from the other side of the aisle.
I want to ask you the same question I put to him. You`re on television right now. Explain to the person watching how spending almost a trillion dollars in either tax cuts, because that`s what in effect -- you`re not collecting the money -- you`re giving it back to people that gave it in the first place in most cases -- or you`re spending money on building things or whatever, how does that get banks to start lending money again? How does that solve the housing problem? How does it deal with the problem that started all this?
MCCASKILL: Well, what has happened is, because there`s such uncertainty and lack of confidence in the market, there`s this retraction.
That`s what a recession is. What does this does, it puts money into the economy. It causes growth in businesses. If a business goes to a bank and says, hey, I just got a contract to build this building for the federal government, that bank is going to look at that loan application in a whole different light than they would today, without that kind of stimulative effect.
So this is, in fact, a way of injecting this money into the economy to put people back to work. That -- it is just that simple.
MATTHEWS: So, you`re counting on the checks that the government`s going to write, either in tax cuts or in spending for jobs or in transfers through Medicare, Social Security, whatever, you`re counting on those checks going to people right now who have mortgage problems?
MCCASKILL: I`m counting on that -- and I think...
MATTHEWS: That`s what I don`t get.
MCCASKILL: I think there will be some housing provisions in this bill, too, Chris. This is a work in progress. We have got do three things in this bill.
We have got to help the safety net, because that money goes right into the economy, food stamps, unemployment insurance. We have got to make sure we`re creating jobs in the infrastructure by spending money in a stimulative way on jobs.
And, then, finally we need to something in the housing sector. And I think we are trying to find that way forward right now in a bipartisan way. And I`m optimistic we`re going to get it done.
The big stuff in this bill is so important. If we do nothing, it is a disaster. And the Republicans who are not honest about that really need to do a gut check.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this.
Somebody buys a house for $400,000. Their income doesn`t justify that kind of an expenditure. They got talked into buying a house with a balloon mortgage, an ARM, if you will. It came due. It got switched back. They have realized they`re facing higher interest rates. Then they realize the economy is not growing. They`re not getting a raise, not getting a promotion. They`re stuck. They can`t make the payments. They can`t afford to live in this house.
Now they realize the house`s value is going down, but they owe the money on a much more expensive house than it now is. They`re afraid of an appraisal. They`re afraid of a reassessment. They`re afraid of everything. They`re afraid the company, even going back to them for a re- fi.
They`re scared to death. They won`t even answer phone calls when they the mortgage company or the bank calls them. What do we do about that problem? Because people tell me that situation`s in the millions right now and it`s at the heart of our problem. How do we solve it? People that can`t afford the house they live in; should the government bail them out? Skip all the intermediaries, give them the checks. I`m just asking.
MCCASKILL: First of all, if we start just giving checks to everyone who can`t pay their mortgage, then we`re going to have a lot of people deciding not to pay the mortgage. That`s not the right answer. We do need to do something about the housing inventory. We do need to give people the tools to renegotiate their mortgages, which most of these companies want to do, Chris. The people who are going to own these houses if people walk away, they don`t want more housing inventory.
Really, there`s an impetus right there to get it worked out. And the worst thing people can do is not answer the phone. They need to be picking up the phone, calling the housing agencies in the community, calling all of the do-gooders that are out there helping people. We have helped a lot of people in Missouri work through this crisis.
At the end of the day, there are going to be some people that lose their homes. And we can`t fix every single problem in the housings sector. But I think we can take some valuable steps in this bill.
MATTHEWS: Does it bother you that Tom Daschle didn`t pay 140,000 dollars in taxes?
MCCASKILL: Yes. But, you know, this whole situation kind of give me a stomach ache. That is a good guy who has worked hard and has such respect up on the Hill. I get the rules around here. The rules are you live in a glass house. And if you make a serious mistake like this, you pay the price.
But it is too bad, because he had a lot to offer our country and I really admire him, because nobody made him do this. This wasn`t the White House. This wasn`t people in Congress. He decided it was the patriotic thing to do, because he was a distraction to this president at a time of crisis. He stepped aside and he deserves a pat on the back for that.
MATTHEWS: What`s the bad blood between Obama and his crowd in the White House and Howard Dean? Howard Dean is the chairman of the Democratic party. He had a big hand in bringing this big victory you all enjoy this year. He`s a medical doctor. He succeeds in so many ways in building your party up and raising money and doing everything right. He began this whole populist thing back in the last election. He didn`t get there, but he helped Obama. How come he`s not HHS secretary? He is getting squat from the president. What is that all about? I don`t get it.
MCCASKILL: I don`t know that he`s getting squat. I don`t know -- I think that --
MATTHEWS: He is getting nothing.
MCCASKILL: I don`t know that he wants anything, Chris. I think there`s a perfectly cordial relationship between Howard Dean and the White House. I think he`s respected in Democratic circles for the job that he did and I think he`ll continue to play a role in our party. I don`t think there`s any bad blood there.
MATTHEWS: He`s going overseas to Europe to help liberal parties do well in elections. I can`t believe that`s his first goal in life. It sounds to me like he didn`t get what he wanted, which was a role in this administration. Just asking. He`s a medical doctor. It seems perfect to make him head of HHS. You have an opening now, senator. I`m just curious why these things don`t fit into place. Anyway, just a thought.
Thank you very much for coming on, Senator Claire McCaskill, a big Obama booster from Missouri.
BTW, I hate how he tried to stir up mess at the end. This is why the state of politics in America is so sad, people only latch on to drama. It's time for America to get excited about POLICY again and not who doesn't like whom in DC.