WASHINGTON - (AP) - With the economy on the brink and elections looming, Congress approved an unprecedented $700 billion government bailout of the battered financial industry Friday and sent it to President Bush, who promptly signed it. President Bush comments after bill's passage
The final vote was 263-171 in the House, a comfortable marginthat was 58 more votes than the measure garnered in Monday'sstunning defeat. The vote capped two weeks of tumult in Congressand on Wall Street, punctuated by daily warnings that the countryconfronted the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depressionif lawmakers failed to act.
At the White House, Bush declared, "We have acted boldly toprevent the crisis on Wall Street from becoming a crisis incommunities across our country."
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson pledged quick action to get theprogram up and operating.
"We all know that we are in the midst of a financial crisis,"House Republican Leader John Boehner, of Ohio, said shortly beforecasting his vote for government intervention in private capitalmarkets that was unthinkable only a month ago.
"And we know that if we do nothing, this crisis is likely toworsen and to put us into an economic slump like most of us havenever seen."
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the bill was needed to"begin to shape the financial stability of our country and theeconomic security of our people."
Stocks were up on Wall Street, where there was a lot ofanticipation of the vote but where investors also were buffeted bya bad report on the job market. The Labor Department said employersslashed 159,000 jobs in September, the largest cut in five yearsand further evidence of a sinking economy.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who had joined theadministration in urging quick action, said, "The legislation is acritical step toward stabilizing our financial markets and ensuringan uninterrupted flow of credit to households and businesses." Hesaid the Fed would work closely with the Treasury Department to putthe bill's provisions into effect.
The House vote marked a sharp change from Monday, when anearlier measure was sent down to defeat, largely at the hands ofangry conservative Republicans.
Senate leaders quickly took custody of the measure, adding on$110 billion in tax and spending provisions designed to attractadditional support, then grafting on legislation mandating broadermental health coverage in the insurance industry. The revisedmeasure won Senate approval Wednesday night, 74-25, setting up afurious round of lobbying in the House as the administration,congressional leaders, the major party presidential candidates andoutside groups joined forces behind the measure.
It worked - augmented by a sudden switch in public opinion thatoccurred after the stock market took its largest-ever one-day diveon Monday.
"No matter what we do or what we pass, there are still toughtimes out there. People are mad - I'm mad," said Rep.J. Gresham Barrett (R-S.C.), who opposed the measure thefirst time it came to a vote. Now, he said, "We have to act. Wehave to act now."
Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 The Library of Congress ? Bill H.R.1424