WASHINGTON-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has used up almost half of the $700 billion economic bailout, and one Texas Republican proposes that the other half go back to taxpayers.
Rep. Louie Gohmert has proposed a two-month tax holiday beginning in January 2009 for all Americans-corporations excluded.
"We need to give this money to the people who earned it," said Gohmert in a statement. "I am sick of Washington millionaires trying to decide which of their cronies should get the next wad of taxpayer money."
Although the legislation will unlikely gain traction in a Democratic Congress, the No. 3 Republican in the House, Mike Pence of Indiana, has given his stamp of approval. As the party's recently elected conference chair, Pence's job is to shape and promote the party's platform and message.
Both Gohmert and Pence are members of the Republican Study Committee, which emphasizes fiscal conservatism.
House Minority Leader John Boehner will consider the plan, according to Boehner's spokesman Mike Steel.
The office of No. 2 House Republican, Eric Cantor, did not return calls to comment.
Paulson will probably request the next $350 billion from Congress next week, but lawmakers from both parties are hostile to releasing the funds.
Since the Treasury Department has not used the bailout package exclusively to buy back the troubled assets of financial institutions, going against what Congress originally voted for, lawmakers are considering other purposes for the remaining funds. For instance, the Big Three U.S. automakers-Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors-are pleading for a slice of the money to save their companies. The automaker executives originally requested $25 billion, but now are asking for $34 million. Congress will consider that legislation next week.
As for the original intent for the bailout money, the Government Accountability Office is investigating whether the funds have been misused. The GAO has already released a report insisting that the bailout program have more transparency to prevent conflicts of interest.
One aspect of the original argument Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made for the bailout was that the program would not really cost taxpayers $700 billion, since the government was buying assets that eventually could be sold back. Spending the bailout funds on other plans or programs, like Gohmert's tax holiday, could potentially burn more taxpayer money.
"Because TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program, the official name for the bailout] is not really $700 billion of spending, an alternative plan of the same size that funds more government programs or gives new tax cuts would blow a much bigger hole in the federal budget than TARP does," wrote Josh Barro of the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit think tank.
Under Gohmert's plan, both personal income tax and FICA tax, a payroll tax for Social Security and Medicare, would be lifted.