04/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hoyer Wants To Shame AIG Into Returning Money

Democrats in Congress are looking at "all options" to recoup the bonus payments made to AIG executives, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Tuesday.

But the option Hoyer's banking on: Shame.

"Have they no shame? Have they no sense of responsibility to the taxpayers of America who have agreed to help them? Have they no sense of decency as it relates to what is happening to literally millions of people around this country who have lost their jobs?" Hoyer asked.

"The question is not whether legally we can abrogate the contracts," Hoyer said. "But the responsible, decent thing for the executives to do is say, 'We won't take these bonuses.'"

Hoyer said that Congress is exploring what options were available in the tax code to recover much of the money. On Tuesday on the Senate floor, Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for the tax code to be used to recover some of the bonus cash.

Hoyer, though, said he was worried that the equal protection clause of the Constitution might prevent the IRS from specifically taxing AIG executives. He suggested that perhaps any executive who received a bonus from a bailed-out financial institution could be made susceptible to some type of tax increase.

While the Constitution might not distinguish between bonuses for good and bad performance, Hoyer said, the American people do. "What they don't understand is bonuses for disastrous performances."

"These guys oughta give the money back," he said.

But will they?

"Judging by their performance, it doesn't give you a lot of hope," he said. "What kind of people are these?"