Using TARP funds

USING TARP FUNDS…. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) have been quietly working on a jobs bill, and to pay for the initiative, Durbin is eyeing unused TARP money. Speaker Pelosi has raised the prospect of doing the same thing. Whispers from the White House, however, have suggested that the administration was eyeing the TARP money for deficit reduction.

I’m pleased to see the president seems to recognize job one.

President Obama is likely to endorse using a portion of the government’s $700 billion financial bailout for a new jobs creation program during a speech about the economy next week, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Friday morning.

“The president thinks we should and must do everything in our power to create an environment for job growth and job creation,” Gibbs said. When asked whether Obama will talk about the use of TARP funds on Tuesday, Gibbs said, “I think that’s likely.”

About $139 billion of the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, remains unallocated and available to the administration.

In light of the better-than-expected employment numbers, there was widespread concern that policymakers might feel complacent about addressing the struggling job market. That would be a serious mistake — without additional investment, it’s likely the unemployment rate will remain above 8% for several years.

The president’s apparent support for a jobs bill, paid for with TARP funds, makes it far more likely that this effort will come together, hopefully quickly.

Update: The Hill seems to be responding correctly, too: “I think we’re at a moment now where we’re beginning to see the positive benefits of the stimulus, but if we take our foot off the accelerator, we could relapse into a very, very slow recovery,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) today.