Jacob Sullum

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., whose panel is supposed to oversee TARP, told CNS News he was "not very well informed" about the president's restructuring plans for the automakers and did not think Congress would vote on them. Frank's counterpart in the Senate, Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said he "wasn't consulted at all on the process," adding, "I've been reading about it in the papers, basically."

Regarding the government-backed car warranties that Obama unilaterally promised to buyers of G.M. and Chrysler cars, House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, D-S.C., said, "I would think that for a government officer to extend a warranty that will create a liability for the government, an act of law would be required. If I were the beneficiary of the warranty, I would certainly want to know the entity that extended it to me had legal authority to grant it." And what if he were, say, a legislator with a constitutional duty to control the use of taxpayer money?

Given how congressional leaders have abdicated their responsibilities, perhaps it's not surprising that the secured creditors who challenged the Obama-imposed Chrysler merger deal were too polite to note that the president lacks statutory authority to intervene in the car industry. "Even assuming that TARP provides the Treasury Department with authority to provide funding to the Debtors," they said, it is neither fair nor legal to let unsecured creditors such as the United Auto Workers get more of their money back than creditors who by statute have a superior claim. But for a president who tramples on the Constitution in his rush to save companies from the consequences of their own bad decisions, the bankruptcy code is no obstacle.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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