Mistake to Give the Treasury Secretary A ‘Blank Check,’ Republican Says
November 17, 2008 - 11:02 AMSen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) wants to block the remaining $350 billion that Congress authorized Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to spend as part of an emergency plan to ease the nation's credit crunch.
In a letter to his Senate colleagues, Inhofe said he’ll push for legislation that will require Congress to ratify Paulson’s plan for the remaining $350 billion.
Congress authorized a total of $700 billion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and it’s not clear, even to members of Congress, exactly what Paulson has done with the first $350 billion that Congress authorized him to spend.
Senator Inhofe says the lame duck session of Congress is a good opportunity for lawmakers to change course, given recent concerns about the way Paulson is running the TARP program.
Last week, Paulson announced that the financial industry bailout funds would not be used to purchase troubled bank assets, which he initially said he intended to do. Buying troubled bank assets was what Congress authorized him to do.
Instead, Paulson said he would continue to use $250 billion of the TARP funds to purchase stock in banks as a way to boost their balance sheets and encourage them to lend money.
Inhofe, who opposed the financial industry bailout plan, says he and other critics were right to oppose it.
"It is just outrageous that the American people don't know -- that Congress doesn't know -- how much money he (Paulson) has given away to anyone,” Inhofe told the Tulsa World. "It could be to his friends. It could be to anybody else. We don't know. There is no way of knowing.''
“I know many of you have serious concerns about how Secretary Paulson has executed the financial rescue program and I share them with you,” Inhofe wrote to his colleagues on Nov. 15.
“Congress abdicated its Constitutional responsibility by signing a truly blank check over to the Treasury Secretary. However, the lame duck session of Congress offers us a tremendous opportunity to change course. We should take it,” he said.
If Paulson sends Congress his plan for the remaining $350 billion during the lame duck session, which Inhofe doubts, Inhofe said he will immediately introduce a disapproval resolution.
Inhofe said he’ll also introduce a bill requiring Congress to vote its approval of the Treasury secretary’s plan for the remaining $350 billion. The current process gives Paulson “far too much latitude,” Inhofe said. His bill also would require a freeze on any remaining funds remaining from the first $350 billion.
“It is imperative that we not allow that amount of money to be added to a deficit approaching $1 trillion this year without any input from the legislative branch,” Inhofe wrote.
In a CNBC interview on November 14, Paulson said the financial markets “have been stabilized.”
"If that is the case," wrote Inhofe, “it is Congress's duty to have a say in what happens with the remaining authorized amount of $350 billion. It is clear that it was a mistake to sign a blank check to one man for such a tremendous amount of money. Though there are still significant challenges in financial markets, it appears that the threat of a catastrophic financial crisis, which was the justification for the grant of such sweeping authority, has subsided. Perhaps the additional $350 billion should not be added to the deficit. Congress should have a debate."