Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are bracing for a fresh request from President Obama for another massive round of spending to shore up the nation’s faltering financial system, which could send the total price for the bailout soaring toward $1 trillion.
So far, Congress has approved $700 billion for the financial system rescue. The first half of that money has been committed, and lawmakers last week agreed to give Obama access to the second half.
But with the economy deteriorating rapidly, financial companies are incurring trillions of dollars in losses on failing mortgage loans and other assets, forcing the federal government to consider substantially expanding its response to the crisis, officials said. Leading economists and lawmakers calculate that hundreds of billions more could be required.
“I don’t think many people at the top of the Treasury or the Fed thinks this is the last amount of money they’re going to need to deploy,” said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who speaks regularly with top officials.
Obama has pledged, for instance, to use at least $50 billion of the remaining rescue funds to help troubled borrowers avoid foreclosure on home loans. But in a private luncheon Thursday with Senate Democrats, some of the nation’s top economists said the cost of that element of the rescue program alone could approach $250 billion.