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US Congress Approves Financial Bailout; Bush Quickly Signs


President Bush has praised what he calls bold bipartisan action by the U.S. Congress in approving a measure aimed at rescuing U.S. financial markets. The House of Representatives Friday approved a Senate-passed version of the financial rescue legislation in a 263-171 vote. VOA's Dan Robinson, Democrats and Republicans joined to pass what they called an imperfect but necessary short-term effort to address the financial crisis.

Speaking after the House vote, the president said bipartisan action will help prevent the financial crisis from widening, and sends an important message to global markets.

"We have shown the world that the United States of America will stabilize our financial markets and maintain a leading role in the global economy," he said.

Shortly after that, President Bush met briefly with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who also praised members of Congress for coming together in a time of crisis.

In approving the legislation, the House avoided repeating an earlier negative vote that triggered the largest ever single closing point loss on Wall Street. That one day loss helped spur the Senate to adopt a revised version in a 74-25 vote on Wednesday.

One hundred seventy two Democrats two joined 91 Republicans in favor of the bill, while 63 Democrats and 108 Republicans opposed it.

Supporters referred to the dangers of inaction and potential ripple effects through the economy, while others underscored their continuing opposition.

Representative Zach Wamp of Tennessee, who had voted against the legislation last Monday, explained why he changed his vote. "I have been listening to small business people all week long, and they said, 'thanks for voting 'no' on Monday, and thanks for standing up for us, but you have to do something.' Congress has to act. We're out of options," he said.

Republican Devin Nunes of California explained why he would not change his "no" vote. "The American people do not accept the allegation that we have only two alternative before us, passage of this bill or another Great Depression," he said. "There are other options if congressional leaders had the courage to allow this Democracy to function. We could debate these issues."

Colorado Representative Marilyn Musgrave expressed the view still held by many Republicans that the legislation would not be effective, and does more to help Wall Street than average Americans.

"Some things have changed in this bill, but taxpayers will still be picking up the tab for Wall Street's party," she said.

Including $150 billion in tax breaks for alternative energy added by the Senate, the legislation authorizes as much as $700 billion for the government to buy up devalued mortgage-backed and other securities from stressed financial firms.

Other points include a strong oversight board, steps to avert further home foreclosures, limiting large pay outs to executives, who leave firms involved in the plan, increasing federal insurance for bank accounts to $250,000, and steps to allow taxpayers to recover losses.

Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin was among Democrats supporting the legislation, while California's Pete Stark opposed it.

KIND: "Today, it's about protecting Main Street not Wall Street. It's about protecting the American taxpayer, not CEO [Chief Executive Officer] salaries."

STARK: "This bill does nothing but bail out Wall Street and large corporate America. It spends $800 billion that the taxpayers will end up having to pay for and it does nothing for middle Americans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican minority leader John Boehner said the measure does what is necessary to forestall further economic damage.

PELOSI: "The urgency is clear. We hear it from our friends and our neighbors. We hear it every place we turn."

BOEHNER: "The American people sent us here to do our jobs on their behalf. They're counting on us."

The way is now clear for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to set in motion complex actions needed to ease pressures on the financial system and credit markets.

After Friday's vote, House Democrats renewed their pledge to take further aggressive action on financial market reforms when a new Congress convenes in 2009, with either Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain in the White House.

"Redoing housing finance, doing appropriate regulation, those are very important tasks," said Democratic Representative Barney Frank.

Congressional committees will hold a series of hearings in coming weeks to examine the causes of the financial crisis and the collapse of key firms such as Lehman Brothers and American International Group (AIG).