House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke with reporters Thursday to make what she sees as a crucial point regarding the stimulus language that ultimately allowed AIG executives to reap $165 million in bonuses: Look to the Senate and the White House, not the House of Representatives.
"It was never part of the conference bill," she said. "This never came to the House side. You can talk to any of our conferees. It's a matter of fact and record."
The House-passed version of the stimulus did not contain any language about executive compensation. The House passed tough restrictions on executive compensation -- over GOP objections -- as part of Rep. Barney Frank's bill dealing with oversight of the bank bailout. That legislation has not been taken up in the Senate.
Pelosi was asked repeatedly about why the House approved the final conference report that included the compensation language. "This was a Senate -- I'm going to cut you off -- this was Senate/White House -- this is Senate-White House language," she said. "That is what we're talking about here, and so, again, we are already on record with even stronger language in legislation we passed."
It was the Senate, Pelosi argued, that debated with the White House over what executive compensation language to put into the stimulus. "The language that related to this was in the Senate bill," she said. "Our record is clear on this subject. If you want to talk about what happened in the Senate, go on the Senate side."
Pelosi kept the focus on the Senate and White House. Asked about Sen. Chris Dodd's claim that the Treasury Department insisted on watering down the compensation language, she said, "You're going to have to talk to Senator Dodd about that. Let's not take our eye off the ball. We've inherited a terrible mess from the Bush administration."
"Next topic," said Pelosi.
She also repeatedly brought focus back to the larger economic crisis. "The point is," she asked, "how did we get here in the first place?"