Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law professor who chairs the Congressional Oversight Panel, which is monitoring the Treasury's spending of the bailout money, appeared this afternoon before a House commmitee to testify about the report -- better characterized as a set of questions -- the panel released this morning.
And from what Warren said, it doesn't appear that oversight of the billions of dollars at stake is being treated by either Treasury or Congress as a top priority.
Warren told the committee that the panel's four members had met for the first time just two weeks ago, and were still "struggling" to find office space. She added that all the members of the panel are serving part-time.
"Well, that raises the question of whether this can really be taken seriously," said Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC), echoing fears about the strength of the oversight mechanisms are in place.
Congress authorized the creation of a five-member panel in the Oct. 2 bailout bill, but progress has been slow-going. Appointments were not announced until Nov. 14, and the panel remains one member short. (Sen. Jud Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican who was originally named to the position, stepped down Dec. 1.) The panel has little authority to do more than request information and report back to Congress about it.
In addition to Warren the other three members of the panel are Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Richard Nieman, the state superintendent of banks for New York, and Damon Silvers, an associate general counsel of the AFL-CIO .