The Senate passed a bill directing the Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive study of the National Credit Union Administration's handling of the corporate credit union meltdown.

The study would also evaluate the agency's handling of the growing losses among big credit union failures.

The bill, passed Thursday, would require the congressional accounting arm to determine the reasons for all corporate failures since 2008 and the adequacy of the NCUA's response.

The expected evaluation would also review the ability of insured credit unions to pay for the projected $16 billion price of the bailout and whether the program exposes taxpayers to any potential liability.

The legislation would also direct the GAO to study whether the NCUA has properly implemented recommendations made by its Office of Inspector General the past two years on reviews of 10 big credit union failures.

The study would be sent to the Senate Banking Committee, the House Financial Services Committee and the Financial Stability Oversight Council.

Passage of the Senate bill came a week after the Senate Banking Committee held hearings on the corporate bailout. The hearings featured Debbie Matz, the NCUA's chairman.

Matz used the hearing to call on Congress for extraordinary new powers that would extend the statute of limitations on charging officers and directors of failed credit unions to as long as 10 years.

The bill includes several technical corrections sought by the NCUA, such as a provision that would allow credit unions that acquire troubled credit unions to count emergency Section 208 assistance from the NCUA in their net worth after the merger.

The bill would allow the NCUA to pay out funds from the corporate bailout fund without borrowing from the Treasury Department.

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