WILL DEMOCRATS SPARE OBAMA A FIRST-WEEK VETO?
As Congress begins debate on whether to allow the Treasury Department to spend the second $350 billion in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Democrats have one goal in mind: to prevent President-elect Obama from having to cast a veto during his first week on the job.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada)acknowledged this week that Congress will not be able to deny the Obama administration the funding designed to help stabilize credit markets that have been rattled over the collapse of the housing industry and later Wall Street, sending the economy into recession.
The reason is the high bar set to stop the funding -- a veto-proof majority in both chambers -- whose leaders support the additional monies. "I think we will get the necessary votes. I feel very confident about that," Reid said.
However, because of the way the TARP program was designed, Democratic leaders
and the Obama administration are facing potentially embarrassing votes
against a program whose administration under Treasury Secretary Paulson has been maligned on both sides of the aisle.
House GOP leadership is lining up votes to deny the funding, hoping to send a signal that the party is serious about fiscal conservatism after the deficits during the Bush administration.
Under the program, the Treasury must notify Congress of its intent to spend the money and lawmakers have 15 days to pass a resolution killing the request.
The Bush administration sent the request Monday of this week, and Republicans in both chambers have filed disapproval resolutions to kill the remaining outlay. The Senate will likely vote on the resolution Friday, January 16, while the House is expected to vote January 21 on its resolution.
HAI has learned that approximately 70 amendments to the bill were filed with the Rules Committee. However, many House Republicans are indicating they will vote against it.
"If government could spend its way out of the financial crisis, we'd probably already be out of the pickle we find ourselves in today. We have $7 [trillion]-$8 trillion of taxpayer exposure and liability on the books already," said Congressman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. "We have a potential $1 trillion stimulus plan coming down the pike -- although most economists agree the last stimulus plan didn't work. Now we're looking at the second tranche of $350 billion, and we may be faced with a number of lousy options."