House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) added some fresh populist outrage to the political uproar raging over the American International Group’s decision to hand out $165 million in bonuses after collecting a $170 billion federal bailout.
But as the White House and Members of Congress scramble for legal options to recover the bonus payments, Hoyer is seeking a simpler solution: shaming the AIG executives into voluntarily returning them.
“The right question is, how can these executives take these bonuses?— he said. “Have they no shame? Have they no sense of responsibility to the taxpayers of America, who have agreed to help them?—
And while Hoyer said “all options are being looked at,— he raised a legal question about one option that lawmakers began exploring [Monday] — forcing the payments back into the Treasury by taxing them at 100 percent. “The question that I have under the Equal Protection Clause is whether you can tax one bonus and not another bonus,— he said.
Earlier today, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation that would impose a 100 percent tax on bonuses of $100,000 or more at companies that take federal bailout dollars.
“If we can’t kill the bonuses, we’ll tax the bonuses,— said Israel, a member of the Appropriations Committee.
Hoyer said he is skeptical that AIG officials would capitulate. “Based on their performance, it doesn’t give you a lot of hope,— he said.