UPDATE: Rep. Issa has accepted Massad as a witness for next Wednesday's hearing in the wake of Geithner's decline to the invite, Treasury says.
ABC News' Matthew Jaffe and John R. Parkinson report:
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the new chairman of the House Oversight Committee, got a pretty simple reply from Tim Geithner to his request for the Treasury boss to testify at the panel's first hearing next Wednesday: Thanks, but no thanks.
Instead, Treasury today said it will send its acting assistant secretary for financial stability, Tim Massad, to the Hill.
“The secretary welcomes the committee’s interest in our management of TARP, a successful program that was initiated under the prior administration and which CBO now estimates will cost roughly $25 billion, a fraction of what the critics once feared," Treasury spokesman Steve Adamske said in a statement. "As is customary, we are happy to make Acting Assistant Secretary Tim Massad, the official with direct responsibility for the TARP Program, available for the quarterly updates that the committee is planning. At the earliest possible date that is mutually convenient, Secretary Geithner would also be pleased to brief the committee on the considerable progress we have made in lowering the cost of TARP.”
Geithner and TARP watchdog Neil Barofsky were the witnesses invited to Issa's first hearing as the panel's boss. Next Wednesday's hearing was timed to coincide with Barofsky’s quarterly report to Congress.
Just to shoot down any possible criticisms that Geithner is evading the oversight of lawmakers by declining Issa's invitation, Treasury noted that, to date, Geithner has testified 42 times before Congress – and nearly one-quarter of those appearances centered around issues related to TARP.
The agency also pointed out that it has responded to 72 reports on the bailout from three different watchdogs, including Barofsky.
- Matthew Jaffe and John R. Parkinson