Accessibility links

US Lawmakers Demand Details About Bank Bailout Plan

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner returned to the U.S. Congress Wednesday, a day after he announced the Obama administration's plan for continuing efforts to rescue the nation's ailing banking system. He faced lawmakers frustrated that few details of the plan have been released.

In his second day of testimony, Geithner again offered a broad description of the Obama administration's financial rescue plan, which seeks to use up to $2 trillion to help shore up ailing banks and spur more lending.

The plan includes expanding a lending program to facilitate consumer and business loans and government financing for private companies to buy up bad real estate assets.

But in his testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Geithner remained vague on details of the plan.

He offered this response when Senator Lyndsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, asked him whether the administration would ask Congress for more money for the program.

"Can't tell you that at this point," Geithner said. "But if we think there is a good case for doing it, we are going to come tell you how we are going to do it."

"Okay, good. So, you have no clue," said Graham.

Geithner said $315 billion remain in the original $700 billion bailout that Congress approved last year.

Senator Graham said that would not be enough money to solve the banking and housing crisis, and said the administration should admit now that it will need more money.

Geithner defended the lack of details in the plan, saying the crisis will take a long time to resolve.

"This is the beginning of a process of consultation. I completely understand the desire for details and commitments," he told the Senate Budget Committee. "But we want to do this carefully, consult carefully so we do not put ourselves in the position again where we are laying out details ahead of the care and substance to get it right, which requires quick departures and changes in strategy. I do not want to do that."

Committee chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, asked when the administration might know whether it would need more money from Congress for the financial rescue program, saying lawmakers will be preparing the annual federal budget and need to plan accordingly.

Geithner said the administration should have a better idea in the next several weeks.