Congress may have to provide a new savings and loan bailout fund -- roughly equal to last summer's $50 billion measure -- this year, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee said yesterday.
The Resolution Trust Corp., the bailout agency created last August, "appears to have plenty of money to meet its immediate needs.
But Congress will have to act, probably later this year, to provide additional funds," Sen. Donald W. Riegle Jr. (D-Mich.) said in a speech on the Senate floor.
The Bush administration last week sharply increased its estimate of the cost of rescuing the thrift industry.
Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady told Riegle's panel last month that the cost would be between $89 billion and $132 billion.
Until then, the administration had insisted that S&L failures mostly could be resolved with $50 billion in long-term borrowing authority provided last year.
But Brady urged Congress to consider providing ''indefinite authority'' for the administration to spend whatever it takes to meet the government's obligation to back insured S&L deposits.
However, Riegle said, ''I believe the ... blank check approach would be dangerous.''
On related topics, Riegle:
Said there is "scant evidence of significant" progress in selling assets the government has inherited from failed S&Ls. Instead of concentrating on hard-to-sell problem real estate, the RTC has focused on easy sales, he said.
Criticized the administration for resisting congressional efforts to earmark additional money for prosecuting thrift fraud. The Justice Department sought and received only $50 million of the $75 million that was authorized by Congress. Riegle said that is not enough to attack a backlog of more than 1,300 major fraud cases.
Accused the Treasury Department's Office of Thrift Supervision of failing to provide current information on the financial condition of the S&L industry. The office's predecessor, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, had provided monthly reports with a lag of about two months. The most recent report from the thrift office is current only through December.