TARP ends officially as lawmakers continue battle over bailouts

The $700 billion financial bailout is set to end officially on Sunday, but its impact will be felt well through Election Day.

The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is coming to a close as the Obama administration and some Democrats begin to highlight its role in averting a second Great Depression.

Begun under the George W. Bush administration and continued by Obama, the bailout was originally pegged to cost $700 billion. The country's largest banks have since repaid hundreds of billions of dollars with profit. And AIG and GM, two of the bailout's largest recipients, are planning on how to repay the program.

Billions more are still supporting the struggling housing market and an effort to encourage private firms to buy toxic assets -- once the original aim of the program. The government cannot start new programs with TARP money, but many of the programs, particularly to support the housing market, are still underway.

Last week, in the lead-up to the official end, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said TARP is estimated to cost taxpayers less than $50 billion.

The lowered estimate was the latest effort by some Democrats and private economists, to argue the program was a success, despite the public outcry over bailouts for Wall Street.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recently praised the program as "one of the most effective emergency programs in financial history," even as he acknowledged that it remains a "four-letter word."

On the campaign trail, the bailout remains a threat to both Democrats and Republicans.

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) lost a tough primary earlier this year, after persistent criticism over his support for TARP from opponent Mike Lee.

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) used some of her first Senate campaign ads to criticize Rep. Roy Blunt's (R) support for TARP in 2008. Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), who wasn't in Congress when TARP was first passed, used one of her first ads in August to criticize Wall Street bailouts.

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, on Friday said the Obama administration is continuing to rely on TARP funds to finance its agenda.

"The TARP program is alive and actively funding the Democrats’ liberal agenda," Bachus said.