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Negotiations Continue on US Financial Bailout Plan

U.S. congressional leaders have resumed talks on a $700 billion financial rescue package. The difficult talks resumed after the negotiators agreed to consider proposals from House Republicans, whose opposition to a White House backed plan had threatened to scuttle it. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Just hours before the talks resumed, President Bush acknowledged that disagreements remain over aspects of the massive financial rescue plan, but he said there is no disagreement that something substantial must be done.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mr. Bush sought to reassure financial markets that a deal would be reached to avert an economic crisis.

"We will rise to the occasion," he said. "Republicans and Democrats will come together and pass a substantial rescue plan."

A White House meeting a day earlier with President Bush, congressional leaders and presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, failed to reach agreement. After word that a bipartisan agreement in principle had been reached on a plan, House Republicans refused to go along.

That plan would allow the government to take over billions of dollars worth of bad home loans and other mortgage-based assets held by investment firms and banks. Several of the country's largest financial institutions have collapsed under the weight of the faulty investments, threatening an even bigger economic crisis.

The plan under consideration would give Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson $250 billion immediately to begin buying up bad loans, and $100 billion more after certifying that the funds are necessary. An additional $350 billion could be turned over without additional congressional approval, although Congress would have 30 days to object.

The plan would include strong oversight of the bailout program and ban excessive compensation for executives at failing firms.

Republican fiscal conservatives argue that taxpayer funds should not be bailing out failed institutions who made bad loans. Public opinion polls show that most Americans agree.

"Our goal here in attempting to come to agreement is to do our best to protect American taxpayers," said Congressman John Boehner of Ohio, House Republican leader. "There are a lot of options in terms of how we do that. We are not going to negotiate in front of all of you."

House Republicans refused to take part in negotiations on the rescue plan late Thursday. But Friday, after President Bush called Congressman Boehner and Senator McCain met with the Republican leader, the number two Republican in the House, Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri, agreed to take part in the latest talks.

Democrats say they will not vote for a package that does not have substantial Republican support. They want Republicans to share any political fallout that may result from passage of a such an expensive rescue plan.

Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid says with help from lawmakers from the other party, a rescue package could be approved by the time financial markets open Monday morning, something the White House has been seeking.

"We could have this done by midnight tonight," he said. "We could start drafting it tomorrow. We could vote on it Sunday or Monday."

In related action, Senate Republicans have blocked a proposal for $56 billion in spending to stimulate the faltering U.S. economy. The economic stimulus package would have extended unemployment benefits, increased food aid to the poor and funded job-creation programs. Republicans have strongly objected to the additional spending, saying it would increase the ballooning federal deficit and lead to higher taxes.