POTUS Touts TARP Repayment as Debt Reduction - But It Can Be Lent Again

ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report:

President Obama wasted no time this afternoon touting the repayment of Troubled Asset Relief Program funds from ten banks, totaling $68.3 billion returned to the TARP program, with $1.8 billion in profit to the taxpayers.

“While we know that we will not escape the worst financial crisis in decades without some losses to the taxpayers, it is worth noting that in the first round of repayments from these companies, the government has actually turned a profit,” President Obama said in the East Room this afternoon.

While cautioning that this is not a sign that the nation’s troubles are over, the president called the initial return on the investments a “positive sign.”

“As this money is returned, we'll see our national debt lessened by $68 billion,” Mr. Obama said, “I've said repeatedly that I have no interest in managing these banks -- or running auto companies or other private institutions, for that matter. So today's announcement is welcome news to me.”

But the president’s assertion that the national debt will be lessened by $68 billion seems less than certain.

During his Senate confirmation hearing on June 4, Herbert M. Allison Jr, nominee to the assistant secretary for financial stability, said any repayment could be extended to additional firms.

And during the June 5 confirmation hearing for George Madison, the nominee to be counsel to the Treasury Department, Madison said “when there are repayments on TARP investments, that creates more headroom under that $700 billion cap that allows for additional investments to be made.”

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said today that was possible.

“I certainly wouldn't rule it out, but I also wouldn't rule it in,” said Gibbs.

-- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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