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Sen. Thune defends Bennett over TARP

Why was Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) felled over his support for TARP while more than 20 of his colleagues who voted for the 2008 economic rescue bill largely avoided voter anger? After a leadership press conference today I talked briefly about this with the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who's up for reelection this year, about whether Republican voters targeted Bennett unfairly, and how fiscal conservatives justify supporting TARP.

RN: A lot of the people I talk to who were on the ground in Utah said that his vote for TARP sunk Senator Bennett. He couldn't recover from it. You supported TARP. Is it being misinterpreted or portrayed the wrong way out there? I mean, in your view, has TARP succeeded in what it was meant to do?

THUNE: It's one of those issues where it'll be really hard, probably, to measure its effectiveness. If you take steps to prevent a disaster from happening, and the disaster doesn't happen, it's hard to know whether it would have happened if you hadn't taken the steps to prevent it. I think most of us felt at the time that all the experts said the economy was on the verge of economic collapse, and it we didn't do something along these lines that there was going to be a meltdown. And so we took those steps. Many of us are, yeah, disappointed at how it was misused and how it will continue to be used. Is it misinterpreted out there? There are lot of people who are frustrated with spending, taxing, borrowing, bailouts, takeovers, and I think it fits into that overall narrative. That's something that those of us who voted for TARP will have to explain to voters.

RN: You're not facing opposition in South Dakota. How have you finessed this issue -- how do Republicans explain why they voted for TARP?

THUNE: There was a tremendous, broad support in South Dakota among the small business community, the financial community, the South Dakota pension funds, the governor -- there was a tremendous amount of support at the time for taking the steps that we took. I think a lot of people would dispute or take issue with how it was used. But people felt like, even though many disagreed with it, we took the steps necessary to prevent the economy from a complete meltdown.

By David Weigel  |  May 11, 2010; 3:25 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Senate  
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