Lawmaker tells Treasury's Kashkari to step down

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A congressman on Wednesday called for the resignation of the man who oversees the $700 billion financial rescue program, saying he was out of touch with the suffering of average Americans.

Rep. Donald Manzullo, an Illinois Republican, grilled Neel Kashkari over bonuses paid to executives of AIG, the insurance company that required more than $100 billion in government funding to avoid a collapse.

Kashkari, who was testifying before the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on how the rescue funds were spent, repeatedly said he could not comment on whether the bonuses were excessive.

“We don’t have confidence in your answers. How can we have confidence in your decisions?” Manzullo said.

Kashkari said he was trying to be “precise” in his answers, but Manzullo quickly shot back that if Kashkari could not decide whether a $3 million bonus was too much for an executive of a company getting bailed out by taxpayers, then “we need somebody else in that position.”

“We need someone with the long-term experience, somebody who’s dealt with loans and ordinary common people,” Manzullo said. “Somebody who understands the hurt that this country is going through. Somebody who can feel their pain and the anxiety which they express to me on a daily basis. On the basis of your answers, I think you should step aside.”

Kashkari did not respond.

Reporting by Emily Kaiser and Karey Wutkowski; Editing by Tom Hals