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US Congress Faces a Week of Challenges

The U.S. Congress faces a major legislative challenge next week as it awaits details of a Bush administration plan to deal with the worst U.S. financial crisis in decades. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, where congressional leaders are working around the clock with the White House and financial officials in preparing a financial rescue package.

Congressional leaders from both parties will tackle what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has described as a mammoth legislative proposal, one he says must be large enough to calm and stabilize financial markets, but cautious enough to protect Americans from too much economic fall out.

As outlined by Paulson, the plan would provide billions of dollars to purchase bad loans from companies facing potential collapse as a result of the country's mortgage crisis.

Until now, the government has been selectively coming to the aid of major banks and financial institutions that are strapped with billions of dollars in bad debt, mostly high risk loans for properties that eventually went down in value.

Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd spoke with reporters on Capitol Hill. "This will be a very difficult plan," he said. "We have already been told it is going to be a costly plan, how much we don't know."

Senator Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank of the House Financial Services Committee, along with heads of other panels and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are consulting with Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and others over the weekend.

Appearing with Paulson, Bernanke, and Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Christopher Cox at the White House Friday, President Bush went out of his way to underscore what he called an urgent need for bipartisan cooperation in getting the financial plan through Congress.

"This is no time for partisanship," he said. "We must join to move urgently-needed legislation as quickly as possible without adding controversial provisions that could delay action."

The president's appeal for what is called a "clean" piece of legislation points to one challenge in moving a bill.

With the price tag of the plan still unknown, lawmakers may want to modify a base administration proposal, either before or during debate.

On the presidential campaign trail, Democratic Senator Barack Obama made his own appeal for a bipartisan approach. "I think it is critical at this point that the markets and public have confidence that their work will be unimpeded by partisan wrangling and that leaders in both parties work in concert to solve the problem at hand," he said.

Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain addressed supporters at a campaign rally. "They [Americans] want to know how their government will meet the crisis. Clear answers are hard to come by in Washington, D.C," he said.

What is clear is that Democrat's target of adjourning Congress on September 26 so lawmakers can prepare for the November presidential and congressional elections may have to slip.

Democratic leaders also aim to push through separate legislation aimed at stimulating the stagnating U.S. economy, and a measure to keep federal government operations going when the new fiscal year begins October 1.