I thought that headline would get your attention. But how else can you explain our congressman's vote on a bill to repeal earlier provisions exempting bonuses at companies receiving bailout funds from executive pay regulations? (Yes, the vote took place on April Fool's Day, but that was just a coincidence. I think.)
HR 1664, which came up for a vote last week, prohibits companies receiving money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program and other bailout programs from paying any executive or employee compensation that is "unreasonable or excessive," or any bonus not based on performance-based standards. The definition of how much is excessive, or what performance standards are reasonable, would come from the Treasury secretary.
HR 1664 passed 247 to 171. It is aimed, among other targets, at undoing the payment of such goodies as the "retention" bonuses -- first pegged at $165 million but later at $220+ million -- given to those AIG geniuses who later received $180 billion to keep their company (and presumably what's left of the economy) from going under.
Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, who bills himself as a fiscal conservative, voted no in the roll call, which was mostly a party-line affair. In other words, he voted to retain the controversial provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that exempted bonuses promised in existing employment contracts. Leave those bonuses alone!
The House vote voids that provision, and also imposes a level of transparency, requiring companies receiving bailout funds to disclose the compensation of their highest paid executives, and require the Treasury to post the information online.
Reporter Mark Hofmann of businessinsurance.com quoted Rep. Barney Frank, D-MA, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, saying: "Given the legislative process and the administration's desire to get this bill done before the recess to speed funds into the economy, Congress made a mistake. We have, fortunately, a process for correcting mistakes, which is subsequent legislation. We have now acted very promptly, and if this bill becomes law then the mistake will have had no effect." The measure now goes to the Senate for its approval.
We asked Ryan's office for an explanation of his vote on HR 1664 and received this reply: "Congressman Ryan introduced his alternative budget on April 1, and did not issue a public statement on HR 1664."