Mr. Bradley, who was a top aide for the House Republican leadership during the 2008 crisis and helped negotiate the recovery package, said that the term bailout gets carelessly thrown around when it shouldn’t. He noted that banks ultimately paid back the funds they were allocated in 2008.
“A program where the government doesn’t lose money is difficult to describe as a bailout,” Mr. Bradley said. “It is a loaded term, and opponents use it indiscriminately to apply to things that don’t even meet the textbook definition.”
Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former top aide to Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader during the 2008 debate over the financial rescue package, said the value of government relief was sometimes in the partisan eye of the beholder.
“If you are a Democrat, assistance to families is much needed economic relief or an economic stimulus, and some will call aid to businesses a bailout,” Mr. Manley said. “If you are a Republican, aid to businesses will be much needed relief or a stimulus, and some will call aid to families wasteful spending.”
The bank bailout came in the final months of the George W. Bush administration, though it is often associated with President Barack Obama, who took office in January 2009. It passed on bipartisan votes in both the House and Senate, though blocs of Republicans in both chambers opposed it.
While its real political effect was in the future, it still became something of an issue in the 2008 election. Democrats ran ads against Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader who was up for re-election in Kentucky that year, hitting him for supporting TARP even though Democrats backed the bill. It infuriated Mr. McConnell.
By 2009, Mr. Obama was in charge, and Republicans had determined that they would unite against his economic program, including a $787 billion stimulus package that not a single House Republican supported and just three senators stepped across the aisle to back. Republicans ridiculed it as wasteful and insufficient. For some Republicans, voting against TARP and the stimulus measure remain proud political moments, despite the fact that the programs fueled an economic comeback.