Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, we have before us today a hallmark piece of legislation that is supposed to be about credit and liquidity and the significant problems we ran into this last fall in this country when we no longer had a functioning, or barely had a functioning financial industry that allowed credit to flow which would allow commerce to ensue.
It was my belief at the time, based on what I was told and what I saw, that extraordinary measures were going to be required for us to handle this significant problem. Consequently, I ended up voting for a financial recovery package that I must say has been handled in a way completely opposite of the way we were told it was going to be handled. That is now water under the bridge. The question before us today is: Are we going to give another $350 billion--not through an oversight process, through an appropriating process--are we going to write a blank check to the Treasury Department to accomplish again what we are assured by the transition team and the incoming administration is for very specific things?
I would like to believe that. As a matter of fact, in a meeting yesterday with some of the officials of the incoming administration, I asked in a closed room where they were giving us this reassurance that this administration was not going to put more money into the auto industry under the pretext it has been done using the TARP funds; that this administration was not going to use this money for other industrial segments of our society but in fact would use this money only when and if it is necessary to keep liquidity rolling, to keep banks' balance sheets to the point where we can accomplish what we need in order to have true commerce in this country. And I must say that I felt somewhat reassured walking out of that meeting.
But one of the things I asked for in that meeting was a public statement so that the rest of America could have that same assurance. We find ourselves today, getting ready to vote on this--and that was communicated very directly, by the way, with some of the highest levels of the incoming administration--we are about to vote on it, yet there has been no public statement whatsoever that would assure either Members of this body or the American taxpayers that we are not going to be using it to bail out companies that are not competitive and have not had to do the hard things to maintain themselves to be competitive; we have no assurance we are not going to go to other industries and do the same thing; and we do not have, in fact, a public expression, an explanation, or a letter of intent of the incoming administration that they are going to use it in a very precise and direct manner to maintain liquidity of the financial sector.
The other thing that we have not heard, along with maintaining that liquidity, is how the administration will handle the toxic assets, which is what we were told the money was for in the first place.
So I come to the floor this afternoon wanting to support our new President. I want to support him. I talked to him about this issue prior to his senior staff coming and talking to us. But I find myself in the predicament of having been fooled once by the present administration not doing what they said they were going to do. They have not been transparent as to where and how the money is being spent. The American people haven't had access. We don't know the priorities under which it was done. And now we are being told again: Trust us.
Well, I am willing to do that, provided we put out to the American people exactly what that means. And the only thing that I can figure as to why it has not been forthcoming--that is what we asked for yesterday afternoon in the meeting with those representing President-elect Obama--is that they do not want to commit. And I regret to say that if the incoming administration won't commit on paper and publicly as to how they are going to use this money, I am disinclined to vote to give it to them. That pains me, because I want our new administration to be tremendously successful in the face of all the problems we have.
To meet the goal of transparency and accountability--which is what this new administration is all about, and I believe it will be far greater than what we have seen in the past; I will give them credit for that--it is required that they publicly tell the American people how, when, why, and what they are going to use this money for. And my only conclusion would be, in the face of that statement not being forthcoming, is that they either have the votes and believe they can accomplish this without being forthcoming--which again goes exactly the opposite direction of what my friend Barack Obama campaigned on--or they weren't necessarily truthful in what they told us on how they were going to use the money.
So I stand ready to try to support them, if in fact we have assurances--public assurances and documented assurances--that they are going to follow the intent of what we originally gave the money for.
Absent that, I would find him be unable to support that and would vote for the resolution of disapproval.
I yield back the remainder of my time.
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