Hank Paulson bit back at Senators who were flogging him for his I-won't-use-the-bazooka comment he made about using the authority Congress granted him to bail out Fannie and Freddie. .
“You all can be darn glad you gave us the bazooka 'cos we need it,” he said, momentarily casting aside his prepared remarks.
Then the scrappy secretary pushed back on charges that the brevity of his original bailout bill -- which was a mere 2-and-1/2 pages -- was an imperial power grab that didn't write in an oversight role for Congress and independent regulators.
Paulson said, "I thought it would have been presumptuous" to fill in the oversight blanks because he believes that element of the plan was a Congressional prerogative.
To those who question taxpayer exposure, he responded, "Stability in the market.. is the ultimate protection," quickly caveating: "The taxpayer is on the hook, the taxpayer is already on the hook."
And he repeated his call for fast passage of a "clean" bill: "There is a bipartisan consensus for an urgent legislative solution…[We need to] avoid slowing it down with programs that are unrelated or don’t have broad support."
That last bit may hint at Paulson's flexibility. Executive compensation caps, mortgage work-outs and, to a lesser, extent, governmental equity stakes in bailout participants, have "broad" support.
The Dow seems to like what papa says. It's back up to 91 points.