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Obama calls for bailout transparency

Hail to the (faux) chief Officials staged a rehearsal of next week’s presidential inauguration Sunday morning, including the swearing-in at the Capitol with a stand-in for President-elect Obama. Army Staff Sgt. Derrick Brooks, left, delivered a six-word inaugural address that nonetheless drew a cheer: “My fellow Americans, God bless America!”

Associated Press

Hail to the (faux) chief Officials staged a rehearsal of next week’s presidential inauguration Sunday morning, including the swearing-in at the Capitol with a stand-in for President-elect Obama. Army Staff Sgt. Derrick Brooks, left, delivered a six-word inaugural address that nonetheless drew a cheer: “My fellow Americans, God bless America!”

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama wants to make it easier to monitor how the second $350-billion installment of the financial bailout is spent and says homeowners and small businesses should get some help.

"We can regain the confidence of both Congress and the American people in that this is not just money that is being given to banks without any strings attached and nobody knows what happens, but rather that it is targeted very specifically at getting credit flowing again to businesses and families," the president-elect said in an interview aired Sunday.

Obama's economic team has been talking with the Bush administration about having Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson ask Congress as early as this week for access to the rest of the bailout fund. If Congress rejected such a request, a presidential veto could still free up the money, unless Congress overrode the veto.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated during a rare Senate session Sunday that Bush and Obama officials are near agreement on submitting notice to Congress about using the remaining $350-billion.

The Congressional Oversight Panel raised detailed questions last week about how banks are spending the first $350-billion, how the money will combat the rising tide of home foreclosures and Treasury's overall strategy for the rescue. In instance after instance, the panel said, the Treasury Department did not offer adequate responses.

In an interview aired Sunday on ABC's This Week, Obama said he has asked his economic team to develop a set of principles to ensure more openness about how the money is spent. Under consideration by Obama aides and congressional Democrats are proposals to limit executive pay at institutions that receive the money and to force such institutions to get rid of any private aircraft they may own or lease.

"I think that when you look at how we have handled the home foreclosure situation and whether we've done enough in terms of helping families on the ground who may have lost their homes because they lost their jobs or because they got sick, we haven't done enough there," he said.

Closing Gitmo

Obama, who has been receiving daily national security briefings since his election in November, also acknowledged that his campaign pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay will be more of a challenge than he anticipated. Many of those held at the military site are suspected terrorists or potential witnesses in cases against them.

The president-elect said that while some evidence against terrorism suspects may be tainted by the tactics used to obtain it, that doesn't change the fact they are "people who are intent on blowing us up."

In other matters

Bush programs: Obama signaled that he was unlikely to authorize any broad inquiry into Bush administration programs like domestic eavesdropping or the possible torture of terror suspects, but he did not rule out the possibility of case-by-case prosecutions if the Justice Department found evidence that laws had been broken. As a candidate, Obama broadly condemned some of the counterterrorism tactics of the Bush administration and its claim that the measures were justified under executive powers.

Holder: Obama predicted his choice for attorney general, Eric Holder, would pass Senate confirmation despite worries about his ties to President Bill Clinton's controversial pardon of Marc Rich and other issues.

First dog: The Obamas are deciding between a labradoodle and a Portuguese water hound puppy as a pet for their daughters, ages 7 and 10. Obama said they're ready to visit shelters.

Information from the New York Times was used in this report.

Obama calls for bailout transparency 01/11/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 12, 2009 8:46am]

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