Sen. Murray talks to Sequim Rotary Club

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Freeland, told the Sequim Rotary Club at its weekly luncheon meeting that she was as angry as anyone about the huge federal bailout of the financial industry.

But she also understands that financial experts regard the nation's current financial situation as extremely serious, Murray said.

"I was as furious as all of you. I let Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have it on behalf of all of you. I yelled at them," she said.

The state's senior U.S. senator visited Sequim and Port Angeles last week on a two-day tour that included several stops but was dominated by the turmoil in the national and international financial markets.

"We are facing some extremely serious times. I never thought I would see what I have seen," Murray said.

On the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 25, a group of 12 congressional leaders, including Murray, was called to an evening meeting regarding the impending financial crisis and proposed $700 billion bailout legislation.

After listening to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson explain the situation, the group was dumbfounded, Murray said.

"I've never seen so many politicians not say anything for so long. It was a stunning silence," she said.

The shock was matched only by the "unbelievable" anger that followed the presentation of the proposed solution, Murray said.

Murray described it as a one and a half page piece of legislation that authorized handing over $700 billion in taxpayer money to Wall Street without accountability, transparency or limitations on "golden parachutes" for executives.

So she stayed in Washington D.C., over that weekend to work on an alternative bill, Murray said. That legislation included requirements to show that the cash infusion was working before Wall Street would get any more, she said.

The money also would be approved and tracked by an oversight committee and golden parachutes would be subject to high taxes that should discourage those, Murray said.

Then she began asking people and businesses in Washington state if the lack of access to credit was real, Murray said.

Officials with Paccar Inc. said they had had orders for 50 to 100 trucks cancelled because the customers couldn't get the necessary credit, she said.

Educational institutions and counties also were in danger of missing pensions and payrolls because of what had happened to their portfolios, Murray said.

After the first $700 billion bailout bill failed in the U.S. House of Representatives on a 205-228 vote, the Senate voted 74-25 on Oct. 1 to pass a revised version.

Murray voted "yes" while the state's other U.S. senator, Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, voted "no."

Then the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill by a 263-171 vote on Oct. 1. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, voted "yes."

"None of us wanted to vote for this bill. The government is the only entity who can buy this bad debt and hold it long enough to recover our money. I saw no other plan," Murray said.

Now people's pensions are lost and companies can't expand, she said. Congressional hearings are being planned to determine what regulation is necessary to fix these problems and prevent them from happening again, Murray noted.

"We are in a very precarious situation," Murray said, adding that everyone from households up to the federal government has to develop the discipline to live within their means. Congress itself is going to have to tighten its belt, she said.

"We are going to have hearings to see what regulations we need to put back in place to make sure this doesn't happen again," Murray said.

"The federal government also needs to revise its long-standing policy making people into homeowners to say that we need to get people into homes that they can responsibly pay for, she said. "I think we've all learned that lesson."

Murray's visit also included a tour of the Children's Clinic and Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles followed by a roundtable discussion of local health care priorities on Tuesday.

Wednesday's events continued after the Rotary Club appearance with a tour of Angeles Composite Technologies, Inc. and North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center and a meeting with Clallam County veterans' organizations.

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