Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, opened Senate debate Monday on a bill to bail out savings and loan depositors, calling the measure a tough one that is needed to ensure there will be no repeat of the current debacle.

In a strong statement, he blamed the House for "total irresponsibility" in failing to pass a bill he piloted through the Senate in 1986 to reform the industry. He estimated that had the House acted, at least half the pres-ent cost of $126 billion could have been saved.He called the bill "the most important financial legislation of the past 50 years" and said, "We simply cannot afford delays . . . we are losing as much as a billion dollars a month."

He commended President Bush and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Donald Riegle, D-Mich., for leadership on the issue. He said the bill would impose tough new capital requirements on savings and loans to help provide a cushion in case of failures. The bill would also tighten up powers of U.S.-insured state thrifts, which, he said, "had been taking excessive risks with depositors' money."

The measure increases savings and loan insurance rates and requires the industry to buy bonds to finance the rest of the rescue for depositors of failed thrift institutions.

The United States would pay the interest of as much as $40 billion on the bonds.

"We simply have no choice about paying these huge amounts," Garn said. "The U.S. government stands behind the deposits of every depositor in the United States up to $100,000. The price must be paid to keep the government's word and to maintain confidence in the system."