- The Washington Times - Friday, December 5, 2008

The Senate could move next week to approve a New York prosecutor as watchdog over the $700 billion financial rescue plan - the Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as TARP - after a lone senator apparently lifted his opposition to the nomination, two senators said Thursday.

If confirmed, Neil M. Barofsky would be the Treasury Department’s special inspector general in charge of auditing and investigating how the federal aid money is spent and making criminal referrals if it is misspent.

President Bush nominated Mr. Barofsky to the post last month, and the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee approved the nomination six days later. But under Senate rules, a single senator can put a hold on a nomination, stopping it from coming to a voice vote on the Senate floor. No reason need be given for the hold and, under Senate rules passed last year, senators have six days before having to identify themselves as the source of holds.

Sens. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, said that hold appeared to have been lifted. They urged their colleagues to confirm the nominee next week.

“Holding up this nomination will not solve any problems and will certainly create new ones,” they wrote in a letter to other senators. “Confirming Neil Barofsky is essential - time is short and the stakes are high.”

Earlier this week a Government Accountability Office report concluded that the Treasury Department has no mechanism to ensure that banking institutions limit their top executives’ pay and comply with other restrictions imposed when the $700 billion rescue plan was approved.

Congress has also appointed an oversight panel to monitor TARP. That panel is to deliver its report next week.

Mr. Barofsky is an assistant U.S. attorney and heads the mortgage fraud unit for the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.

As inspector general, he will be required to file a report to Congress within 60 days detailing the “purchases, obligations, expenditures and revenues” associated with the bailout plan. Congress allocated $50 million to run the office.

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