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US Lawmakers Express Anger, Skepticism on Financial Bailout Plan


As key U.S. financial officials testified before a Senate committee on Tuesday, Bush administration officials were on Capitol Hill trying to allay concerns and press for action on the $700 billion financial bailout plan. As we hear from VOA's Dan Robinson, majority Democrats report progress in negotiations, but lawmakers from both major political parties continue to voice anger and urge caution.

As Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox testified before the Senate Banking Committee, Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials tried to ease concerns of those in President Bush's party.

As House Minority Leader John Boehner put it, Cheney was invited by the Republican leadership to explain the nature of the financial crisis and why the administration's solution is necessary.

But Boehner acknowledged that many Republicans have serious concerns about the Bush administration's approach.

"Nobody wants to do this; nobody wants to be involved in this; nobody wants to take the chance," he said. "But I would argue that if we do nothing we are jeopardizing our economy, jobs and people's retirement security."

What began as a three-page proposal from the administration has grown considerably, involving a government expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars to purchase bad mortgage debt and other troubled assets to prop up financial institutions and banks, and stabilize markets.

But the magnitude of the proposal has upset conservative House Republicans, who used a news conference to explain objections to the plan.

"There are those in the public debate who say we must act now," said Indiana Republican Mike Pence. "The last time I heard that, I was on a used car lot. The truth is every time somebody tells you that you have to do the deal right now, it usually means they are going to get the better part of the deal. The American people deserve a seat at the table in this debate as well."

Pence and other Republican Representatives are in some agreement with House Democrats who say Congress should spend more time considering solutions.

For their part, Democrats have insisted on changes to improve accountability and oversight, and further protections for Americans against more financial stress.

"The party is over for this compensation for CEOs who take the golden parachute as they drive their companies into the ground," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "The party is over for the disparity in our country between CEOs making almost immoral salaries and not being interested in lifting people up. The party is over for financial institutions taking risks but at the same time privatizing any gain they may have while they nationalize the risk, asking taxpayers to pick up the tab."

Pelosi declined to answer when reporters pressed her about when a bill might reach the House and Senate floors.

She also faces pressure from a group of House Democrats who insist that actions by the Treasury Secretary be reviewable by the courts, and that a three-member bipartisan board approve asset purchases of more than $1 billion.

Democrats have clearly linked action on the financial bailout plan with their additional aim of bringing up separate measures to bolster the U.S. economy.

With little action on Tuesday on either front, lawmakers say they are preparing for the possibility that Congress will remain in session through Friday, when adjournment had been planned to prepare for the November general elections.

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