Crucial vote on $US700b US bailout

US politicians face a pivotal vote on a revised $US700 billion ($A845 billion) bailout plan for struggling Wall Street banks.

US politicians face a pivotal vote today on a revised $US700 billion ($A845 billion) bailout plan for struggling Wall Street banks designed to stem a grave financial crisis and free up frozen credit markets.

The rescue package, a compromise forged in high-stakes negotiations between rival party leaders in Congress and White House officials over the weekend, is due for a vote in the House of Representatives today with the US and global financial markets anxiously awaiting the outcome.

The plan would mark the largest government economic intervention since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and is designed to shore up a troubled economy suffering from a burst US housing bubble that has ravaged the global banking system and dried up credit.

The proposal grants the Treasury secretary authority to buy up toxic mortgage-related assets in troubled banks in hopes of easing the flow of credit and reviving the moribund housing market.

Congressional leaders, mindful of the approaching November 4 general elections, had been rushing to strike a deal before global bourses reopened late yesterday US time.

Japanese share prices rose 0.46 per cent in morning trade after the deal struck by politicians.

President George W Bush praised the draft

legislation, saying the rescue was needed "to help protect our economy against a system-wide breakdown".

Bush, who was due to make a statement before US markets open today, said the plan "sends a strong signal to markets around the world that the United States is serious about restoring confidence and stability to our financial system".

With some conservative Republicans as well as liberal Democrats steadfastly opposed to the plan, it was unclear if the bailout would win approval.

White House hopefuls Republican John McCain and his Democratic rival Barack Obama reluctantly offered cautious backing for the plan, both claiming that demands they had made had been

incorporated into the new bill.

The breakthrough among politicians capped an extraordinary weeks-long rollercoaster on the world's financial markets, sent into a tailspin by the overexposure of both US and international financial firms to the US subprime mortgage crisis.

Democratic politicians portrayed the revised plan, that ran more than 100 pages, as much improved from the three-page version sent days earlier by the White House, saying it included stricter oversight and caps on executive pay packages.

"Working in a bipartisan way, we sent a message to Wall Street. The party is over," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"The era of golden parachutes for high flying Wall Street operators is over. No longer will the US taxpayer bail out the recklessness of Wall Street."

The proposed rescue, posted on financialservices.house.gov and formally titled the Emergency Economic Stabilisation Act of 2008, calls for the immediate release of $US250 billion ($A302 billion) to enable the government to buy up troubled assets.

Under the bill, the president is authorised to approve a further $US100 billion ($A120 billion), but the plan gives Congress a veto power over purchases above that limit and sets a ceiling for all purchases of $US700 billion ($A845 billion).

The rescue operation will be overseen by a board including the chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Treasury secretary and the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The board will be one of four separate oversight agencies or processes, which also include a presence in the Treasury office and an independent inspector general that would monitor the Treasury secretary's actions.

There will be no "golden parachutes" for CEOs or other executives who lose or leave their jobs at companies participating in the plan as long as the Treasury holds equity in those firms.

The negotiations were reportedly marked by bitter disagreement over how to pay for possible losses suffered by taxpayers after debt has been bought and sold.

Democratic politicians had called for financial firms to help pay for the losses but the draft legislation left the question open for the next US president to tackle.

The White House yesterday sought to reassure anxious Republican politicians, saying the government expects assets acquired from troubled banks to eventually generate income and ease any potential burden on taxpayers.

"The impact on the taxpayer will be considerably less than $US700 billion ($A845.7 billion)," White House budget director Jim Nussle wrote in a letter to the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

The bailout bill "authorises the purchase of assets that, over time, will produce income and can eventually be sold," Nussle wrote in the

letter released by the White House.

Source: AAP

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