TARP II Demands Real, Thorough Debate

On Monday, President Bush made a request on behalf of the incoming administration to release the second half of the $700 billion that Congress authorized last fall under the Troubled Assets Relief Program. I have some serious concerns with these funds being released, and I believe that we need to think very seriously on this matter.

For this request to be approved, Congress is required to do nothing, and a formal resolution of disapproval must be passed if we are to prevent these funds from being released. This week, I introduced a disapproval resolution co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Bunning, DeMint, Inhofe, Sessions, Barrasso, Brownback, Enzi, Cornyn and Roberts, and I urge my other colleagues to do the same. TARP has raised far more troubling questions than it has provided answers. And surely, at a minimum, we need to see plans for how the second half of this $700 billion will be used before we approve it.

I have a number of significant concerns with TARP as it stands, beginning with the fact that the entire rationale on which it was presented to Congress was thrown out within days of its passage. To date, it has become apparent that the plan has not achieved one of its pivotal goals – making credit available to individuals and businesses.

I also fail to see the logic in spending $350 billion when we are just about to begin consideration of a $1 trillion stimulus plan. The last thing we need is more debt upon debt, deficit upon deficit. Certainly we have to act on our nation’s economic troubles, and certainly the federal government should help do that. But as we consider spending another $1 trillion, why should we continue spending money on a program that clearly hasn’t worked?

I am particularly concerned with what I see as TARP’s significant lack of accountability. As it stands, the Department of the Treasury cannot clearly detail how they have spent the first half of the money, and the recent auto bailouts indicate that the program has devolved into little more than a slush fund. Yet we are now expected to release another $350 billion without knowing how it will be spent, let alone how the first half was spent.

I believe it is apparent that any move to release further funds should include a real and serious discussion of how the money will be spent. We cannot afford, and our kids and grandkids cannot afford, for us to continue digging our nation deeper and deeper into debt.

Before we move to approve this money, we need to have a thorough discussion about this program and the questions that it raises. We need to see how this second half will be spent, and we need to ensure that the same mistakes will not be repeated. The next step demands extreme caution, and Congress must consider the very real ramifications of approving these funds.