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Mrs. BOXER. The Presiding Officer and I have discussed this issue that is on the floor before us now, the next tranche of funds for the TARP program. All one has to do is listen to what TARP stands for: Toxic Assets--T-A--and your first instinct is: I don't want to go near it; I don't want to touch it; I don't want to have anything to do with it. I can tell my colleagues from the bottom of my heart that on 99 percent of issues here, I know what I am going to do pretty much immediately, because it is a clear path for me. I find it not that difficult to make that decision. However, the first vote we had on TARP after a phone call with Secretary Paulson and Ben Bernanke where they said: Our system is on the verge of economic collapse and if we don't get them the 700-plus billion dollars, our Nation would face economic ruin--I remember I was on that phone call with about 30 other Senators, and we were asked for a blank check by Henry Paulson. He wanted 700-plus billion dollars, he wanted it then, that minute, that second. He wanted no strings. He didn't want to tell the bankers they couldn't take a bonus payment. He didn't want to tell them executive pay had to be reasonable. He didn't want to tell them they would have to lend. He didn't want to use it for housing. It was a horrible conversation. We said: You are not getting a blank check and we are not going to do this until we put some strings on this.
Well, we put a few strings on it. We set up a commission to oversee it. I wish to say that Mr. Paulson, in my view, did not live up to the spirit of what this Senate and this Congress wanted him to live up to. What they did was not transparent. What they did did not ease the credit crisis. What they did was to kind of ignore the problem of the housing crisis which got us into this mess in the first place.
So let me be clear. Let me be clear to my constituents. If Henry Paulson was going to get this money, this second tranche of money, if the Bush administration was going to continue to dole out this money, I wouldn't give them $3, let alone $350 billion. I wouldn't give them 30 cents. I wouldn't give them 3 cents. However, I have to say to all of those within the sound of my voice, as someone who wound up voting for the first tranche and feeling badly about it ever since: When President-elect Obama tells us that it would be irresponsible for him, in the face of this worst crisis since the Great Depression, to not have the ability to tap into these funds; when he tells us that he is fearful that there could be a great crisis, that there could be an emergency; when he asks us to trust him on this and put our confidence in him and that he is going to use these funds in a different way, he is going to use these funds to address the housing crisis, and that he is going to be transparent; and to quote him, ``Every penny that they spend, the public will know about,'' I have a choice. I have a choice. I can say: Sorry, it was a horrible experience the first time and I am not going to give you this chance. I could say that. That is the easy thing. That is the easy vote. Voting no is the easy vote. Then I can go home and not worry about it. But how could I walk away from this President at this time? When he says to me and he says to us he needs a chance here, he needs this tool in his pocket to bring it out if he is in a crisis worse than the one now, I cannot walk away from that.
So I say to my constituents I will vote for this, and I will do it because of the assurances I have gotten from the President-elect himself that it will be different, that he will use these funds judiciously, that he needs to make sure he has this tool in his pocket. I hope my constituents understand that after hearing that from this President, who got more than 60 percent of the vote in my State, that I feel he deserves my trust at this time.
I thank the Chair and I thank Senator Dodd.
I yield the floor.
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