Blank check—that's not just a campaign sound bite; it's a pretty accurate description of the $700 billion mortgage bailout plan President Bush is asking Congress for. Read the draft proposal, and you'll see shockingly brief, sketchy legislation that would give unchecked power to Treasury Secretary Paulson:
Sec. 7. Funding: ...Any funds expended for actions authorized by this Act, including the payment of administrative expenses, shall be deemed appropriated at the time of such expenditure.
Sec. 8. Review. Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
The only "oversight" included in the bill is in Section 4, which requires the Treasury Secretary to report to Congress within three months of his first action under the authority granted by this bill and every six months thereafter. "Report"—not answer to, not request permission from, not follow the directives of, simply "report."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it unsupervised, unregulated lending that got us into this crisis in the first place?
Senator Obama is right on when he refers to the proposal as a "blank check." He won't even grace it with the name "plan": "[T]hus far, the administration has only offered a concept with a staggering price tag, not a plan" [Mike Allen, "Obama Calls Bailout a 'Blank Check,'" Politico.com, 2008.09.21].
Now I read somewhere that the Dems would probably not stand in the way of the $700B bailout but would try to tack on all sorts of extras. Obama is pushing for inclusion of another dose of economic stimulus for working families. But more importantly, he's asking for some accountability. Speaker Pelosi and Representative Barney Frank (bless his pugnacious heart) are on board with that. Rep. Frank wants to see the companies we bail out capping their executives' pay. (That's relatively generous: I still want those CEOs over here mowing my lawn and filling potholes.)
The bailout bill as drafted by the Bush Administration is a naked power grab, a fitting capstone to the Bush Administration's legacy of expanding executive power. Congress has an obligation to itself, to checks and balances, and to us taxpayers to rewrite this bill to create a safe, accountable response to the mortgage crisis.