Correction to This Article
The article on a Senate hearing about the nominee to be the special inspector general of the bailout program misidentified the committee that held the hearing and is chaired by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). It is the Finance Committee, not the banking committee.

Bailout Watchdog Nominee Faces Senators

Neil M. Barofsky speaks before a Senate committee hearing yesterday. He pledged to issue a report on TARP within 60 days of confirmation.
Neil M. Barofsky speaks before a Senate committee hearing yesterday. He pledged to issue a report on TARP within 60 days of confirmation. (By Haraz N. Ghanbari -- Associated Press)

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By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Senior lawmakers yesterday criticized the Bush administration's delay in appointing a watchdog to oversee the $700 billion bailout plan, but said they hoped the president's nominee would be confirmed by the end of the week.

The Senate Banking Committee told Neil M. Barofsky, the federal prosecutor nominated to be the bailout program's special inspector general, that his job would be particularly difficult because $290 billion -- nearly half the total amount of the program -- has already been committed by the Treasury Department.

"For a while, you are going to be playing catch up," said Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the chairman of the committee.

In his first public comments since the White House announced his nomination Friday, Barofsky pledged to meet the congressionally mandated deadline of issuing a report on the program within 60 days of his confirmation. He also said his work as an assistant U.S. attorney in New York, including acting as the head of its mortgage fraud unit, qualified him for the position.

"My overriding goal as special inspector general for the TARP would be to make sure that its rules and regulations are followed and to prevent waste, fraud and abuse," said Barofsky, 38, using the acronym for the bailout, formally known as the Troubled Assets Relief Program. He added that he will appoint an investigative arm to "tirelessly investigate and refer for prosecution any individual or entity that dares to try to criminally profit from this program."

The Senate Finance and Senate Banking committees both claimed jurisdiction over the confirmation process. Just before the hearing, the Senate parliamentarian ruled in favor of the Banking Committee, which has asked Barofsky to testify before it tomorrow but has not scheduled a vote on his nomination.

After the Banking Committee votes, according to the parliamentarian, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has up to 20 days to consider the nomination, although its chairman hopes to expedite the process. The Senate leadership said there has been no decision yet on when the full Senate will vote.

But once Barofsky is confirmed, several lawmakers said, he should act as aggressively as possible and refuse to let the Treasury Department deny him access to information on the program.

"I want you to have the tenacity of a mongoose," Baucus said. "If someone says no, you don't take no for an answer."

© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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