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What Is a Congressional Oversight Panel?

Congressional panels oversee matters including how banks receiving federal money spend those funds.
The US Capitol Building, the seat of the US Congress.
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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2014
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The Congressional Oversight Panel was created in 2008 to oversee the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), also known as the bailout. The five-member panel is part of the legislative branch of the U.S. government and is charged with making sure that the government spends the bailout money in the best interests of the U.S. economy and the taxpayer. While the Congressional Oversight Panel has little actual power to change U.S. policy, it attempts to provide transparency in government actions and helps to provide accountability for money spent to counteract the financial crisis.

In 2008, TARP was signed into law and the Congressional Oversight Panel was created based on Title 1, Section 125 of the bill. This panel reviews the economic market of the U.S., evaluates regulations, and the U.S. Treasury’s use of the bailout funds. The panel is charged with reporting to Congress every 30 days about how the TARP money is being spent. This includes overseeing how banks who receive money from TARP spend those funds.

The Congressional Oversight Panel is comprised of five individuals. One is chosen by the Speaker of the House and one by the House minority leader, with the Senate majority and minority leaders charged with choosing two more members. The final member, typically the head of the panel, is jointly chosen by the Speaker of the House and the majority leader of the Senate.

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The Troubled Assets Relief Program, originally estimated to cost $356 billion in U.S. Dollars (USD), was enacted to bail out banks that were in jeopardy of bankruptcy or collapse. With the large sums of money that these financial institutions required to stay afloat, the creation of the oversight panel was seen as necessary to ensure government funds were appropriated wisely and without waste. Following several reports that businesses were spending taxpayer money on what many would consider needless expenses, the Congressional Oversight Panel was charged with recommending new regulations and laws to Congress.

While the Congressional Oversight Panel’s main goal is to make sure that TARP money is used in America’s best interest, it also serves as a means for greater transparency in government spending. The extraordinary cost of the TARP bill caused a great deal of concern for many American taxpayers. The reports made by the Congressional Oversight Panel are open to the public, thereby providing U.S. citizens with detailed information on how their tax money is being spent and whether or not that spending is improving the economy.

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