Sanders Wants to Halt Second Half of Bailout Package (Burlington Free Press)

By Dan McLean

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Tuesday that Congress should reject any call to release the second half of a $700 billion Wall Street bailout fund -- regardless of who is president.

"It is inconceivable that we would provide another $350 billion to the banks, supposedly to ease credit, when they are refusing to tell us how they're spending the money they've already received," Sanders said.

Sanders said many of the concerns he raised when he voted against the bailout in early October have turned out to be true and that he wants to "junk" the bailout legislation. If more money is needed to bolster ailing businesses, the amounts should be approved individually by Congress, Sanders said.

"Before you give banks another dime you have to make sure there is total transparency," he said.

Banks have stonewalled efforts by The Associated Press to track how tax dollars are being spent at 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in federal bailout funds.

Sanders said the administration persuaded legislators to quickly pass the bailout package two months ago when "Congress was told that if a bill was not passed imminently it would lead to a collapse of the international financial system. And that's the reason many people felt the need to vote for it."

The first half of the bailout pool has been spent, Sanders said, adding he has co-sponsored legislation with Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., to require congressional approval before the second half of the bailout fund can be released. The goal of the $700 bailout was to ease credit markets to give businesses access to loans to create jobs, Sanders said. "Not to be used for bonuses, acquisitions and mergers or to bulk up the bank's holdings."

Sanders said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has failed to keep financial institutions from squandering taxpayer funds on year-end bonuses or outlandish executive salaries.

Paulson "is part of the problem, not part of the solution," Sanders said. Contact Dan McLean at 651-4877 or dmclean@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com