GOP Sharpens Attacks on Democrats’ Plans for TARP Funds

Posted December 8, 2009 at 7:53pm

House and Senate Republican leaders ramped up their attacks Tuesday on a proposal to use unspent money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program on a jobs bill, criticizing what they said will become a “slush fund— for pet Democratic projects.

The proposal was originally floated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week, and President Barack Obama on Tuesday embraced using unspent TARP funds on various proposals to stimulate job growth.

Republicans were adamant that any unused portion of the $700 billion fund to prop up the nation’s banks should go toward deficit reduction and pounced on the news that the White House is backing the Democratic plan for funding a new jobs bill.

“The president’s announcement is further proof that TARP has morphed from an emergency injection of liquidity to thaw frozen credit markets into a $700 billion revolving slush fund to promote the Democrats’ political, social and economic agenda,— said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).

Hensarling, who voted against the TARP bill in 2008, serves as the lone member of Congress on the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who voted for the TARP bill, said the idea of spending the extra TARP funds “is repulsive.—

“This makes me so angry. I was there. I know all about TARP,— Boehner told reporters. “First, it was never intended that all this money would ever have to be spent. But any money that wasn’t spent was supposed to go to pay off the debt.—

Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, said spending leftover TARP funds would violate the intent of the law passed in 2008, would add to the debt, and would do nothing to create jobs.

“TARP was supposed to be a temporary plan to restore the health of the credit markets and protect the economy from a ‘doomsday’ scenario,— Bachus said in a statement. “Instead, the Obama Administration is turning TARP into a permanent bailout agency and petty cash drawer for politically favored interests.—

“We need to end TARP and require that all repayments go directly toward paying down the debt,— he said.

House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) likened the administration’s proposal to a “second stimulus bill.—

“That is not something that we think worked back in January nor do we believe that it will work again today,— Cantor said.

Both Cantor and Bachus also voted for TARP legislation in 2008.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters on Tuesday that the extra funds left over from the TARP fund were appropriate to use toward infrastructure spending, and he dismissed Republican arguments as more of the same from a party that was out of ideas.

“We didn’t need all the resources to stabilize [the banks], and we are now getting money paid back at a good return; 10, 11, 12 percent return,— Hoyer said. “It makes sense to use some of those resources that were applied to try to stabilize Wall Street to now try to invest them in growing Main Street.—

He added, “And that is what we are talking about doing.—

Senate Republicans were also ramping up their messaging efforts on the economy, attacking Democratic proposals to use leftover TARP funds as a “spending spree— that would violate current law.

In a floor statement Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejected the plans to use the funds in a new stimulus. “This is not only irresponsible, since the purpose of these emergency funds was to prop up the credit system in the midst of a crisis. It also violates both current law and the pledge we made that every dollar we got back would be returned to the taxpayer to reduce the national debt,— McConnell said.

McConnell also argued that “Americans are running out of patience with politicians who promise jobs, but who deliver nothing but more debt, higher taxes, and longer unemployment lines.—