Senator John ThuneSouth Dakotans know how important it is to keep the family checkbook balanced. By keeping careful count of how much money comes in and how much goes out, families can avoid debt and the headaches that accompany it. Unfortunately, Democrat leaders in the House and Senate have gone on a spending spree and piled up record levels of debt.
On Christmas Eve, the Senate was forced to vote for a $290 billion increase in the statutory debt ceiling. Now, in the coming week, the Senate will again be asked to vote on the higher debt limit that was passed by the House of Representatives. This increase amounts to $635 billion which will bring the overall debt limit to a staggering $13.029 trillion. All of this is being done without any realistic plan from Congressional Democrats or the Obama Administration on how to reduce our already unsustainable debt.
When the Senate reconvenes on January 20th to take up the latest debt ceiling increase resolution, I will be recognized to offer an amendment that will stop the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Between money not yet obligated or spent and money already returned to the program, there is approximately $320 billion in unobligated funds. I fear that the Administration will use this unobligated money as a slush fund for whatever government programs it chooses. My amendment would end TARP spending and mandate that any funds coming back into TARP in the future be used to pay down our crippling debt.
Congress created TARP to address the potential collapse of the financial market. Instead, the Treasury Department has used it as a vehicle to prop up insurance companies, banks, auto manufacturers, and financial institutions. Going around Congress again by recycling returned funds or spending unobligated funds for other purposes is just as unacceptable as all of the previous misuses of TARP funds.
For nearly a year I have been advocating legislation that would end TARP since it has strayed from what it was initially designed by Congress to accomplish. A recent report issued by the Congressional Oversight Panel for TARP warns that funds committed to institutions before the programs October 3, 2010 expiration date can be paid out indefinitely even after the program expires. In other words, Treasury Department bureaucrats could continue this spending spree, unnecessarily piling up even more debt that will harm the economic well being of future generations.
Elected leaders in Washington need to take a lesson from South Dakota families and learn to balance the government’s checkbook. Ending TARP now would be a step in the right direction, and I will continue working toward that goal. Future generations of Americans will suffer with our debt for a long time to come unless serious action is taken soon.