Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk said today he would end the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program early in hopes it would save billions.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk said today he would end the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program early in hopes it would save billions.


Kirk made the proposal in an economic speech at an Illinois Policy Institute event at the Hoogland Center for the Arts Monday morning.


"We supported the legislation because we faced a unique danger as outlined by the secretary of the treasury and the chairman of the Federal Reserve," Kirk told reporters after the speech. "But I think the greater danger ... is the debt of the United States and the deficit. So I think it is responsible to wind this program up."


The program is already set to end Oct. 3. It was unclear whether the program would have to end immediately to realize savings from the unused funds.


"I would follow the cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office that we would save about $16 billion," Kirk said.


Kirk's Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoualis, tried to cast Kirk's statement as a change in position.


"It's hard to tell which Congressman Kirk we should believe - the one who enthusiastically supported TARP, voted six times to protect taxpayer-financed CEO bonuses, and voted against cracking down on Wall Street, or the one who now says the program should be shuttered," said Giannoulias spokesman Scott Burnham in a statement.


Kirk said he was aligning himself with the views of two Democratic senators - Dianne Feinstein of California and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who also favor ending the program early.


The controversial TARP used taxpayer money to bolster financial institutions in an effort to stop the 2008 financial crisis. Congress and then-President George W. Bush approved it in 2008. The government spent $700 billion on TARP, but the latest CBO report estimated that the program will cost taxpayers only $66 billion.