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Senate Bill Provides More TARP Oversight

Apparently not convinced that the Wall Street bailout law goes far enough to ensure the money is well spent, Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), both leaders on the Senate Finance Committee, introduced legislation today that would force companies accepting taxpayer money under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) to open their books to federal inspectors.

Under the bill, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) would be given access “to any information, data, schedules, books, accounts, financial records, reports, files, electronic communications, or other papers, things, or property belonging to or in use by the TARP.”

In a statement, Grassley explains the rationale behind the proposal:

In the bill that established the $700 billion rescue operation, Congress said the GAO had to conduct a regular review of how things were going, but Congress didn’t make sure the GAO would have access to the kinds of information it needs to really assess how the money is being used and the effectiveness of how the money is distributed. This bill would close that gap and enable the GAO to conduct a more thorough review.

The House passed a TARP oversight and reform bill earlier this month, but Senate Democrats never considered it. Instead, upper-chamber leaders decided that a three-page letter of promises from the Obama administration would suffice. (Baucus and Grassley have just weighed in that they disagree.)

The Senate released the second $350 billion of bailout funding at Obama’s request this month.

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