This vote was on an amendment by David Vitter, R-La., that would have prohibited the bank bailout law (known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP) from being extended beyond Dec. 31, 2009. The amendment was offered to a bill that would add $2 billion to the popular “Cash for Clunkers” program, which gives vouchers to people to trade in older, less fuel-efficient cars for newer, more fuel-efficient ones.
Vitter said the original bank bailout legislation set an end date of Dec. 31, 2009, but allows the Treasury Department to decide on its own that the program needs to be extended through Oct. 3, 2010. Vitter said his amendment would remove the ability for the agency to decide to extend it and simply end the program on Dec. 31, 2009.
“I think any such extension would be absolutely contrary to the best interests of the Nation, and I believe we should act and simply take that extension authority back and wind down the program and end the program, the bailout, in an orderly way on the original intended date of December 31 of this year,” Vitter said. “The biggest reason [why] is simply the TARP bailout program was rushed through Congress in what was described as an impending and indeed a cataclysmic crisis” but that now that crisis has passed.
Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said Vitter’s amendment is harmful because “we are far from being out of the woods.”
“We still have about 20,000 people a day losing their jobs. We have around 10,000 people a day getting foreclosure notices on their homes. We know there is still an emerging problem with commercial real estate that has yet to be addressed. It is looming out there and demanding some attention,” Dodd said. “I don’t deny that, in fact, there seems to be an improvement, an ever so slight improvement in the right direction. But at this juncture, anyone who can say there is no longer any reason for us to take what funds remain within the TARP program, this is not adding to the funds. This is merely a question of whether the program ought to be terminated at the end of this year or extended for about 7 or 8 months into next year.”
By a vote of 41-56, the amendment was rejected. All but two Republicans present voted for the amendment. All but three Democrats present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the measure went forward without language that would have discontinued the TARP program on Dec. 31, 2009, without the possibility of an extension.