By Valerie Baldowski
Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, who represents District 3 in the U.S. House, has voiced his displeasure over what he called Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's "bait-and-switch" on the $700 million economic bailout.
According to information released from Westmoreland's office, Paulson has completely changed the focus of the bailout package within 30 days' time. Because of that alleged about face, Westmoreland is now calling for an explanation of the contradiction.
"Secretary Paulson needs to come to Congress next week to explain what has changed so dramatically, in the past month, that absolutely nothing he said then holds true now," Westmoreland said.
"The Congress gave the secretary significant leeway to spend up to $700 billion, which is about the size of the Pentagon's budget, because [he] said we have to act immediately on bad mortgages, or the economy was going to implode within hours.
"Now, we're told we're not going to buy up bad mortgages after all, when that was the main focus of the legislation?"
On Sept. 19, Paulson told Congress that bad mortgages had to be addressed as soon as possible. On Nov. 12, Paulson announced that the money in question would instead go toward aiding consumer credit markets.
Westmoreland said Paulson needs to answer the question of whether he ever intended to use taxpayer money for bad mortgages at all.
Brian Robinson, Westmoreland's Press Secretary, said there is some doubt as to whether the change was intentional, or whether Paulson simply made a large mistake in how to handle the situation.
"That's what we want to find out," he said, adding that Paulson should be held accountable for his actions. "Part of being given the authority to disburse $700 billion is accountability. It's Congress' responsibility to provide oversight as well."
Robinson said he is not sure if that explanation before Congress will ever take place, though, because when President-elect Barack Obama's staff takes office it is unclear whether they will want to pursue the issue.
"It could happen," he said of the possibility of an investigation. "The wild card is that Paulson is going to leave office Jan. 20th, and be replaced."