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House Approaches Critical Friday Vote on Financial Rescue Plan


The House of Representatives is approaching a crucial vote expected Friday on Senate-passed legislation aimed at rescuing the U.S. financial markets. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, where congressional leaders from both parties are working hard to ensure that the measure passes.

Party leaders are taking no chances this time, after Democratic and Republican leaders fell short of the votes needed to pass the legislation earlier in the week. That triggered the largest ever single closing point loss on Wall Street, which helped spur Senate leaders to action.

In a 74 to 25 vote, the Senate approved a revised version of the measure Wednesday, adding provisions it is hoped will persuade opponents in the House to switch their votes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says tax relief and other provisions the Senate added to the bill do not change its main mission.

"Congress must act, we must intervene, we have to send a message of confidence to the markets, as we protect the taxpayer," said Nancy Pelosi.

At the White House, President Bush met with small business owners from the northeast United States, and stressed the importance of a positive vote in the House.

"The bill that is before the House of Representatives tomorrow, is a bill that has got the best chance of providing liquidity credit, providing credit, providing money, so small businesses and medium-sized businesses can function," said President Bush.

In its current form, greatly expanded from an original Bush administration proposal, the legislation would authorize as much as $700 billion for the government to purchase de-valued mortgage-backed and other securities from stressed financial firms.

Other points include a strong oversight board, steps to avert further home foreclosures and limiting large pay outs to executives who leave firms involved in the plan.

Among new additions, the government would increase to $250,000 the amount of insurance the government provides for Americans' bank accounts.

On Thursday, Democratic and Republican leaders each said the other side must persuade its respective members to vote for the legislation.

President Bush and administration officials joined in the effort, telephoning lawmakers through the day.

A group of House Republicans held a news conference outside the Capitol to complain about add-ons to the legislation. Among them were 20 lawmakers who voted against the financial measure last Monday.

In a proposed amendment, they would eliminate un-related spending the Senate added to the legislation, and limit to $250 billion dollars the amount Congress would authorize initially to purchase securities.

Ohio Republican Steve LaTourette and Alabama's Spencer Bachus:

LATOURETTE: "One, we believe it [the bill] would fly out of the House and pass, and, two, when that occurs, this group that we collected are sufficient to provide the 12 votes necessary that were short on Monday."

BACHUS: "In November we come back. Between now and November we should be in session. We should be considering alternatives, we should be having hearings, we should do what we should have done but we maybe couldn't have done [before]."

As Representative Bachus suggested, their amendment would have Congress follow through with scheduled hearings on the financial market crisis in coming weeks, and lawmakers would reconvene in November to reconsider next steps.

The House is scheduled to convene Friday morning, but the timing for consideration remains uncertain.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters Thursday, Democrats would have to be very confident they have sufficient votes before bringing the measure to the floor.

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