- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

Republican lawmakers Thursday launched some unusually direct attacks on President Obama for his handling of the economy and the furor involving bonuses paid to bailed-out insurance giant American International Group.

“We have the president saying he takes full responsibility and then saying it’s not his fault,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican.

Mr. Kyl and other top Senate Republicans tweaked the president for finding the time to fill out an NCAA basketball tournament bracket and appear on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” while anger was boiling over in Washington over revelations of the bonuses and the nation’s credit markets remain in crisis.

“This administration seems to have disdain or very little time for the hard work of governing,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.

While partisan bickering has resumed in full force on Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama’s recent election and high poll numbers have limited the number of direct attacks by congressional Republicans to date. But there was a new edge to the criticism of Mr. Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

Republicans slammed what they said was the administration’s clumsy handling of the AIG bonuses, with conflicting accounts of when Mr. Geithner and other officials first learned of the payment to top officials of a company that has received more than $170 billion in taxpayer loans and investments.

It “leaves him open to the charge he’s living above the store but not minding it,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican.

They also questioned the role of Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, in the passage of an amendment to the $787 billion stimulus bill in February that effectively prevents the government from retroactively canceling bonuses like the ones given to AIG and other corporations that received federal bailout money.

Republican lawmakers say they were excluded from the backroom negotiations where the final language for Mr. Dodd’s amendment was approved, and said it is still not clear what influence the Obama administration had in the amendment.

The House of Representatives was scheduled to debate and vote Thursday. on a hastily crafted bill to tax much of the reported $165 million in AIG bonuses. It was not clear when the Senate would consider its version of the AIG bill.

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