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US okays $700 billion bailout plan

By Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
Last updated on: September 29, 2008 11:32 IST
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The US Congress and the Bush administration have finally agreed on the language of the $700 billion legislation intended to bail out institutions reeling under the massive financial crisis after a marathon session stretching several hours.

Though the government and lawmakers have agreed on the broad outlines of legislation after sitting through the package late Sunday night, with lawmakers refusing to give the entire $700 billion to the Treasury at one go.

All eyes now are on the House Republicans, who had expressed deep reservations but had almost to be brought to the table kicking and screaming.

The timing of the announcement of the finer details of the legislation was said to be critical all throughout the day keeping in mind the opening of the financial markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

The House of Representatives is expected to debate and vote on the package tomorrow but the Senate, which is breaking away on account of the Jewish holiday can attend to the package as early as Wednesday.

The $700 billion, however, will not be given to the Treasury in one go to bail out the troubled financial institutions and the distribution of money will come about in three stages, the first of which will be in the magnitude of $250 billion followed by a tranche of $100 billion and finally of $350 billion.

Senior lawmakers are stressing that although the Treasury Secretary will be given authority and flexibility, there will be tough oversight by the Congress, something the Bush administration wanted to avoid.

Congressional staffers have maintained that the Financial Stabilisation Plan has a strong tax payer base, with one of the chief intentions being that of insulating Main Street from Wall Street.

And in the process of federal government reinvestment in the troubled financial markets lawmakers have taken pains to see that some of the excesses that contributed to the mess are not going to be rewarded.

The restriction on CEO compensation package will ensure that there are no multi-million dollar "golden parachutes," with provisions of recovery of bonuses that are based on promises which later turn out to be false or inaccurate.

The Congress has also ensured that there is going to be full oversight of this process and there is simply no question of the legislative branch appropriating the huge amount and walk away from it.

There are at least four separate and independent oversight entities that are a part of the package: an oversight board appointed by leaders of Congress on a bipartisan basis; a general accounting office presence at the Treasury to oversee the programme and conduct audits; an independent Inspector General; and Transparency including the postings of transactions online.

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Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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