Moderate Democrats pitch bailout repayment bill

Six leaders of the Blue Dog Coalition are pressing for legislation to recoup the cost of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program and pay down the growing deficit.

In a letter sent last week to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the Blue Dogs said they wanted to "ensure that any legislation engineered to recoup the outstanding costs of expenditures authorized under [TARP] is fair [and] equitable."

The debate has picked up steam ever since estimates suggested TARP will cost far less than initially projected. Congressional Budget Office recently put the price tag at just under $100 billion.

President Obama proposed in January imposing a 0.15 percent tax on the liabilities of banks, thrifts, securities dealers and other entities with more than $50 billion in assets, which the White House estimates would raise $90 billion over ten years to help pay down the deficit.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are exploring using a variant on the bank fee proposal to help offset job-creation initiatives. Several lawmakers of both parties have said they want to exempt firms that did not take any TARP assistance from the fee.

Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., a Blue Dog whip and one of the signers, said in a separate release that it is imperative to get the money back.

"Billions of dollars went to wealthy bank executives whose reckless decision-making contributed to our nation's economic downturn in the first place," he said. "Making sure that bailouts do not add to the national debt is the only responsible option."

"Our nation's fiscal outlook is bleak. It is imperative that the cost of this [TARP] package be recovered without adding an additional hundreds of billions of dollars to our federal debt," said Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., another letter signer and a member of the Ways and Means Committee.

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