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Lawmakers urge Bush to act quickly on team

Democrats: Resignations underscore economic trouble

By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Lawmakers urged the Bush administration Friday to move quickly to shore up its economic team, following the resignations of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey.

Democrats were sharper in their comments, saying the resignations point to trouble with the White House's economic policy.

"If the Bush economic program is as successful as they say it is, why do they keep firing everybody who had anything to do with it?" asked Rep. Barney Frank, who sits on the House Committee on Financial Services. Frank, D-Massachusetts, called the resignations "an extraordinary confession of failure in the economic arena by this administration."

Frank noted that the resignations come in the wake of Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt's decision to step down. The Bush economic team, he said, had "flamed out."

Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle offered similar comments.

"Firing its economic team is an overdue admission by the Bush administration that its economic policies have failed," Daschle said in a statement. "However, the fundamental problem is that this administration has no comprehensive plan to get the economy back on track."

Sen. Paul Sarbanes, chairman of the Committee on Banking, House and Urban Affairs, called on the White House to reassemble a new team soon.

"It is critically important for the administration to move quickly to appoint credible new economic leaders who understand Main Street America and the investing public; who are committed to creating new jobs all across America; and who will focus on restoring confidence in the financial markets and addressing corporate malfeasance," Sarbanes, D-Maryland, said in a statement.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also said the White House should act with speed.

"As chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, I look forward to working with the White House and moving quickly in finding a successor," Grassley said, adding that his appreciated O'Neill's "candor" and work.

"More of his unreserved honesty is needed inside the beltway," Grassley said.

The Republican chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services was more muted in his assessment of the resignations, and he too offered a positive review of O'Neill's tenure.

"The tax cut he played a large part in enacting returned much needed dollars to the pockets of hard-working Americans across the nation and bolstered a slumping economy," Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, said in a statement.

But Frank said the resignations underscore the need for a new economic policy from the Bush administration. He said the White House ought to delay implementing more of the tax cut, which, he said, favored the wealthy.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the incoming House Democratic leader, said she was organizing a two-day meeting of House Democrats next week to craft a plan for economic growth.

She noted that the past year had been marked by corporate malfeasance and a rising unemployment rate.

"This is not acceptable," Pelosi, D-California, said. "The American people deserve better."

CNN Capitol Hill Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report


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