The Troubled Asset Relief Program.
An Asset Relief Program? Supposed to be!
And so, President-elect Barack Obama today scooted over to Capitol Hill to join Democratic senators at their weekly closed-door lunch to ask them not to block the release of the remaining $350 billion of TARP funds -- that's the second half of the government's $700 billion financial bailout that Congress passed in October. It's a measure of just how controversial TARP has become that the President-elect would have to make the trip. He does have a few other things to worry about these days.
But questions about what happened to all the first half of that money have made TARP rather unpopular, even among some who were for it. Elizabeth Warren of TARP's Congressional oversight panel isn't the only one trying to pry answers out of the Bush Treasury Department about where the $350 billion went. Senator Carl Levin got so frustrated not getting answers from Treasury that he threatened to subpoena them - which appears, finally to have done the trick. In a statement, he said, "The Department of Treasury assured me... that there will be no need to serve a subpoena, because they will provide the documents I have requested.... It should not have taken two months and a subpoena threat, but I...look forward to receiving the documents this week."
House Republicans seem determined to oppose the release of the second half of the TARP money. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has vowed to persuade members to vote against it and Minority Leader John Boehner now also opposes the money, even though it was he, weeping, who urged his Republican colleagues to pass the original TARP legislation.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said today that releasing the second $350 billion was essential to slow the rise of foreclosures around the country. Opposition to this is a a bit of a political freebie for Republicans: Obama will get the money regardless of what Republicans do. Under the TARP law, the resolution cannot be amended or filibustered, and it only needs a majority of votes in both chambers to pass. But is the fact that the Republicans see that there's political hay to be made in opposing this thing a bit of a warning sign for the Congress and the administration?
I need to be talked down!