- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 29, 2009

The federal government has spent all but $135 billion of the Wall Street bailout fund established by Congress last year, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Sunday.

And while downplaying speculation that he and the Obama administration would ask Congress for more money to help failed banks, Mr. Geithner didn’t dismiss the possibility either.

“The important thing is that we are going to work with the Congress to make sure that we have the resources needed to do this right,” he said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” “The lesson of financial crises is governments tend to do too little. They wait too long to escalate.”

Mr. Geithner said about $135 billion in uncommitted resources is left of the $700 billion bailout fund, called the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). He said the estimate was based on “very conservative judgment” about how much more money will be needed to help Wall Street in the coming months, as well as the ability of institutions that have received bailout money to repay the government.

The Treasury secretary added that money left in the fund provides “substantial resources to move ahead with this broad-based suite of initiatives to help get the financial system back in the business of providing credit.”

When pressed on the matter later on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Geithner again was noncommittal about whether Wall Street would need more government money to avoid future financial crises, saying only that “we’re moving forward to use those resources as quickly as we can to get them where they need in the economy.”

Mr. Geithner said said the administration is prepared to give additional aid to Detroit’s automakers, saying it is important for the country to have a vibrant domestic automobile industry. But, he added, the industry must revamp its business model if it expects more government help.

“We want it to emerge from this period of challenge stronger, [and] that’s going to require a lot of restructuring,” he said on “This Week.” “We’re prepared as a government to help that process if we believe it’s going to provide the basis for a stronger industry in the future that’s not going to rely on government support.”

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