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Gill wants you to parse McNerney’s TARP votes

The campaign of Lodi Republican Ricky Gill – who’s taking on Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District – is up in arms about a claim made in pro-McNerney mailers sent out by the California Democratic Party.

Two CDP mailers, aiming to paint McNerney as a fiscal conservative, say he voted “NO to a $350 billion bailout because McNerney believes in responsible spending.”

But Gill’s campaign notes that the January 2009 vote to which that refers – on releasing the second half of the $700 billion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program – was meaningless. As FactCheck.org explained two years ago:

As the law was structured, the treasury secretary (then Henry Paulson) had access to only $350 billion, half of the total package, at first. The second half would be available only if the administration went to Congress and asked for it. Treasury would get the money unless Congress said no. The first $350 billion of the TARP money was quickly spent.

By the time the Bush administration, at the request of President-elect Barack Obama, filed a request with the Senate for the rest of the money on Jan. 12, 2009, there were widespread complaints that too much of the first tranche had been used to bail out large institutions and not enough to help homeowners. The new funds could have been blocked had both houses of Congress voted to do so, but on Jan. 15, 2009, the Senate defeated a disapproval resolution, 52-42, effectively voting to release the funds. Treasury almost immediately announced it would use some of the money to shore up a deeply crippled Bank of America.

Where was the House in all this? Pretty much irrelevant. Eventually there was a similar vote in that body. … [I]t passed, 270-155. But the vote came on Jan. 22, a week after the Senate’s vote (and two days after Obama was sworn in). Treasury already had the money.

So the House vote was purely symbolic.

“The Democrats’ claim is doubly misleading because McNerney voted for TARP in the first place,” Gill spokesman Colin Hunter said in an email.

True, too – though it might be worth noting that the law creating TARP was proposed and signed by President George W. Bush, and approved by Congress with bipartisan support (including Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and 90 other House Republicans). And also that TARP both worked and cost the taxpayers less than expected, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.