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Sununu Named to Bailout Panel

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2008 03:58 PM

WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. John Sununu, who lost his re-election bid in November, is the fifth and final member of a committee set up by Congress to oversee the government's $700 billion financial rescue program.

The New Hampshire lawmaker is a member of the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Economic Committee. He voted in favor of the bailout plan, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, that Congress passed in October.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who named Sununu to the panel on Tuesday, initially had selected New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. But Gregg, citing a busy schedule ahead, stepped down.

"This program represents the most significant government intervention in the financial markets in my lifetime," Sununu said in a statement. "Taxpayers, policy makers, and investors deserve a clear and accurate assessment of how these funds are allocated, and what benefit they provide."

In addition to its oversight role, Sununu said he expected the committee to develop recommendations to overhaul financial sector regulations.

The Treasury Department has spent nearly $350 billion, with most of it used to provide capital to banks and other financial institutions. Critics have said the second half of the fund should be used to help reduce mortgage foreclosures.

Sununu lost in November to Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire's former governor.

McConnell noted that Sununu was the co-author of legislation to increase oversight of the big mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and said he was among the early skeptics who "raised warning flags" about the mortgage finance system.

The House speaker, the House Republican leader, the Senate Democratic leader and the Senate Republican leader each has an appointment to the five-member board. The fifth member is selected by the speaker and the Senate majority leader, giving Democrats a 3-2 majority.

The oversight panel issued its first report last week, raising a series of questions about the Treasury Department's management and oversight of the program. Its chairman is Elizabeth Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School.

The other members are Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas; Richard Neiman, superintendent of banks at the New York State Banking Department; and Damon Silvers, associate counsel at the AFL-CIO.

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