- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

Lawmakers from both parties are complaining they’ve been kept out of the loop as the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department struggled in recent days to deal with Wall Street’s exploding financial crisis.

A briefing for House Republicans on the federal rescue operations for giant insurer American International Group and other recent Treasury moves was called off Thursday after the White House canceled plans to send someone to address the gathering, said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

“I think I and all of my colleagues here on the Hill are concerned about the lack of information, the lack of consultations that have occurred,” he said.

As a top party leader in Congress, “I’ve gotten a phone call from time to time about what’s coming a few minutes before everyone else,” Mr. Boehner added. “But in terms of the consultation that members are looking for, it just hasn’t been there.”

The White House said there were “fast-moving developments” and that the Treasury Department tried to get information to members of Congress as quickly as possible.

“But, granted, more and better and earlier communication between us is always a better thing,” said spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, complained that the administration’s recent actions had been decided in “secret meetings” and he did not have enough information to make a judgment on whether the bailouts were justified.

“I think it’s time we recognize there’s more than one branch of government,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for the House Financial Services and Oversight committees to hold hearings in the coming weeks regarding the AIG bailout and its implications for the economy.

“I’m quite concerned about what we can do to instill confidence back in the markets,” the California Democrat told reporters Thursday. “There’s something wrong with this picture, and again, we hope that the hearings will reveal how we got here in the first place and how we shouldn’t get here again.”

Mrs. Pelosi ridiculed the brief statement from President Bush earlier in the day on the market crisis.

“We wondered if he was even going to come out of hiding on the subject,” she said. “He came out for about a minute and said very little.”

Georgia Rep. Tom Price was one of many conservatives Republicans who questioned the wisdom of the bailouts of AIG and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and demanded more “transparency” from administration policymakers and the Federal Reserve.

“We should be able to closely examine the apparent collusion between the Federal Reserve and the Treasury, a collaboration that has taken place without the knowledge of Congress,” Mr. Price said.

Mrs. Pelosi said it was possible Congress could pass financial industry reform legislation this year, though Congress had not been expected to return after the November elections.

But she added the passing legislation will be tough without the White House’s cooperation, and noted the administration hasn’t briefed Democratic leadership of any proposals it may be drafting.

“I don’t think the American people want us to wait until next year,” she said.

With credit markets seizing up, major investment banks reeling and world stock markets taking a beating, lawmakers were reluctant to criticize the short-term rescue plan fashioned by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. for the AIG bailout.

“It’s not for me to second-guess in the middle of a crisis,” said Mr. Boehner, but added that he was concerned about such a huge government intervention into the market.

While the recent government rescue plans involved “sensitive talks,” he said, “members of Congress also have a responsibility to their constituents to have a better understanding of what’s happening.”

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