It's Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer in Washington.


And I'm Steve Inskeep in New York. These two cities are at the center of a giant financial bailout. Wall Street firms want help from Washington, and the stakes are as high as they could ever get.

WERTHEIMER: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says the country needs the biggest financial rescue in American history, and needs it fast. Financial firms are seeking their share of 700 billion tax dollars.

INSKEEP: And some lawmakers are trying to slip their own priorities onto a plan that officials want to pass within days. Here's NPR's David Welna.

DAVID WELNA: Treasury Secretary Paulson went from one Sunday TV talk show to another yesterday, trying to explain why a deficit-ridden nation should go hundreds of billions of dollars deeper in debt, all to cover the bad bets made by some of the nation's wealthiest private firms. Paulson's argument made here on CBS's "Face the Nation" was simple. Things could get far worse should the U.S. not ride to the rescue.

(Soundbite of "Face the Nation")

Secretary HENRY PAULSON (Department of the Treasury): And I have every confidence that Congress will go along with this because - that doesn't mean everyone in Congress will agree. It doesn't mean that there won't be a healthy debate. But I am highly confident that we will get the authorities we need this week.

WELNA: Paulson said he not only wants congressional approval to be quick, he wants it clean as well. That is, not loaded up with items he didn't request. Barney Frank, the Democrat who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, followed Paulson on CBS.

(Soundbite of "Face the Nation")

Representative BARNEY FRANK (Democrat, Massachusetts; Chairman, House Financial Services Committee): Secretary Paulson and I have a lot of agreement, but we have a difference on what's clean. We don't think that trying to stimulate the economy, given the six plus percent unemployment - let's not forget other problems as we focus on this one - I don't think that dirties up the bill.

WELNA: Frank wants the bill to limit executives' compensation at the financial firms getting bailed out. He also wants a special tax on those making over a million dollars a year to help offset the cost of the bailout. Another leading Democrat, New York Senator Charles Schumer, seemed to throw cold water on Frank's wish list during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."

(Soundbite of "Fox News Sunday")

Senator CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): We will not Christmas tree this bill. The times are too urgent. Everyone has their own desires and needs. It's going to have to wait.

WELNA: But then Schumer pulled out his own wish list for a bailout bill.

(Soundbite of "Fox News Sunday")

Senator SCHUMER: When I and others have talked to Secretary Paulson, he has said he is open to changes. And I would call changes necessary in three areas. I call them THO. Tax payers, they have to come first. Homeowners, we have to do something about the mortgage crisis; not just foreclosures, but the price of housing which is affecting everyone on Main Street. And oversight, we need some accountability here.

WELNA: And it wasn't just Democrats saying Congress should take a closer look at what's in the bailout.

(Soundbite of CBS News)

Senator RICHARD SHELBY (Republican, Alabama): This is the mother of all bailouts, and we don't see the end in it yet.

WELNA: That's Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. He told CBS he expected the bailout would actually cost more than a trillion dollars.

(Soundbite of CBS News)

Senator SHELBY: We don't know the end game in this. And I'll tell you what bothers me about this. It's that I believe that the chairman of the Fed and the Treasury secretary, Paulson, with all due respect to them, they've been staggering from crisis to crisis. And they haven't even said today that this will end the crisis.

WELNA: Other congressional Republicans are closing ranks with the Bush administration. House Minority Leader John Boehner told ABC's "This Week," it's time Congress rose above partisan politics, even on the eve of a fiercely fought election.

(Soundbite of ABC show "This Week")

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio; House Minority Leader): We don't need 535 members of Congress adding their best idea to this bill. We need to keep it clean, simple, move it through the House and Senate, and get it on the president's desk.

WELNA: Jon Kyl, the Senate's number two Republican, told Fox he's optimistic the bailout plan will move through Congress in time for lawmakers' planned adjournment.

(Soundbite of Fox News)

Senator JON KYL: (Republican, Arizona): I think the chances are better than 50-50 that we'll get it done by the end of the week. And hopefully it won't be bogged down with too many extraneous and costly provisions.

WELNA: But that was before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a defiant statement last night. We will not, she declared, simply hand over a $700 billion blank check to Wall Street and hope for a better outcome. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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