$350B bailout: Senate vote looms

Reid says senators will vote Thursday on measure, led by Republicans opposed to TARP, seeking to block the second half of bailout.

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By David Goldman, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A Senate fight looms Thursday over President-elect Barack Obama's attempt to secure the second half of the $700 billion financial rescue package.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Wednesday night that the Senate would vote on a resolution that seeks to block the release of $350 billion.

A senior Democratic leadership aide told CNN that party leaders are hopeful they have enough votes to kill the resolution but conceded they did not know for sure.

President Bush, acting on behalf of Obama, sent Congress a formal request on Monday to release the second $350 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to the Treasury Department.

Eight Republican senators, led by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said Wednesday they would do all they could to prevent Treasury from getting the remaining TARP funds.

"We should not give another administration a carte-blanche to do anything it wants, which is what TARP has become," Vitter said.

Under the bailout legislation approved by Congress in October, unless Congress passes a joint resolution rejecting the request within 15 days, Treasury can begin tapping the funds. Obama has vowed he would veto a resolution denying him the funds.

Several key Democrats who had earlier stated their displeasure with the handling of the first $350 billion are now changing their tune, saying they will honor the incoming Obama administration's request.

"I agree that the money should be made available under the appropriate condition," House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said Monday. "We should not allow our disappointment at the Bush administration's poor handling of the TARP program to prevent the Obama administration from using the funds in more appropriate ways."

Frank authored a bill, which he hopes will pass the House this week, that sets conditions for the use of the funds, including foreclosure mitigation and improved oversight.

Vitter acknowledged that garnering enough votes may be difficult.

"Clearly our effort is uphill, it's a challenge," he said. "But passing this resolution of disapproval is a prerequisite for any of those [TARP modification] efforts to move forward in a meaningful way."

In the House, Republican congressmen on Wednesday also voiced their opposition to the release of the remaining $350 billion, arguing that the first half had been poorly handled with a lack of oversight.

"Until I know how we spent it, why we spent it and where it is and how it's going to be paid back, I think it'd be irresponsible for me to vote for the next $350 billion," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The matter might not make it to the House, however. This disapproval resolution is not allowed to be filibustered, so it only needs a simple majority, 51 votes, to be defeated.

If the resolution is defeated in the Senate, Obama's request for the money will automatically go through, since the law says both houses of Congress must pass disapproval measures to stop the bailout funds from being released.

-- CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report.

How do you think Barack Obama's presidency will affect you and your wallet? What can he do to help you - and others - in these trying economic times? E-mail us at realstories@cnnmoney.com, and your thoughts could be part of an upcoming story.  To top of page

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