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Klobuchar says Obama's decision to freeze executive pay cap significant: 'It's not chump change'

ST. PAUL -- Freezing salaries of executives whose businesses receive federal economic recovery aid is more than symbolic, Minnesota's U.S. senator says.

"It's not just chump change," Sen. Amy Klobuchar said.

The Democrat explained that 116 banks that received federal payments paid top executives an average of $2.6 million. "It is a lot of money," she said.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday ordered strict wage guidelines on the executives, including requiring that no executive in firms getting federal aid be paid more than $500,000 annually.

"We all need to take responsibility," Obama said. "And this includes executives at major financial firms who turned to the American people, hat in hand, when they were in trouble, even as they paid themselves customary lavish bonuses. ... That's exactly the kind of disregard of the costs and consequences of their actions that brought about this crisis: a culture of narrow self-interest and short-term gain at the expense of everything else."

Klobuchar had planned to introduce a bill limiting pay to $400,000, the same as the president earns, but said she is happy with the Obama number.

"These Wall Street executives clearly didn't get the memo: Party time is over," Klobuchar said. "If Wall Street wants our help, then they need to tighten their belts, just like everyone else who's struggling on Main Street."

Klobuchar likes Obama's plan to put information about federal payments on the Internet, giving Americans a chance to follow the funds.

Senators expect to pass their second version of an economic recovery bill this week, leaving it up to House-Senate negotiators to work out differences between the two chambers' bills.

Among items in the Senate version of the bill, but not in the House, is a tax break for people who buy new cars. Senators also are trying to focus economic aid on items that create jobs immediately.