Bachus defends 'near death' vote for TARP

The top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee said he does not regret voting for the 2008 financial bailout, but that it was a political "near death experience."

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) said the $700 billion bailout, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), was necessary at the time, but that he and Republicans feel new Democratic financial regulatory legislation "institutionalizes" future bailouts.

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"A lot of people who I respect said you have to act. So we did act," Bachus said in an interview taped for C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program. "I don't know what would have happened if we hadn't. I imagine most economists said it needed to be done. I think most of those same economists say now if you continue to do this you'll create moral hazard by the bucket load."

Bachus said that in the fall of 2008 constituents urged him strongly to oppose the TARP legislation. He said he and other Republicans successfully added provisions that required banks to pay dividends and issue warrants to the federal government as part of the package. Bachus voted for the original bill setting up the TARP program.

"People in my district were saying 99 to one, you know, I'm opposed to this," Bachus said. "I voted for it because I felt like it was necessary. It was a near death experience. I can tell you it was a gift that keeps on giving."



Bachus is one of the top Republicans on the conference committee charged with finalizing a 2,000-page bill that aims to clamp down on Wall Street. Bachus and House Republicans unanimously opposed the version of the legislation that passed the lower chamber in December.


Bachus said it is unlikely that many Republicans will support the final bill. "There are just too many things. It is too intrusive," he said.

Republicans have criticized the conference process, which began on Thursday and reconvenes Tuesday, as "political theater."

Bachus said most of the decisions are being made privately. C-SPAN is televising the public hearings of the conference process, but lawmakers continue to negotiate and discuss provisions privately.

"I don't see Republicans as having a lot of input. That doesn't help my ego. But I think we are being marginalized," he said.