The Status Of Financial Bailout Talks David Welna and Host Liane Hansen discuss this week's financial bailout talks.
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The Status Of Financial Bailout Talks

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The Status Of Financial Bailout Talks

The Status Of Financial Bailout Talks

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

From NPR News this is Weekend Edition. I'm Liane Hansen. Members of Congress negotiating a bailout package for the financial industry emerged from a closed-door meeting early this morning and announced they had a tentative agreement. Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; House Speaker): We've made great progress. We have to get it committed to paper so that we can complete - formally agree. But I want to congratulate all of the negotiators for the great work that they have done.

HANSEN: The late night bargaining session on Saturday illustrated the extraordinary urgency with which the Bush administration, the leaders of both parties in Congress, and global financial markets all view this bailout. But many members have felt themselves whipsawed by plunging market valuations and ongoing talks on a bailout for the past week. They sense a political disaster as details of the plan become known. NPR's congressional correspondent David Welna joins us now. David, what do you know about the state of the bailout package?

DAVID WELNA: Well, Liane, I would say it really sounds as if we have a deal. That's exactly what we heard on Thursday as well, only the difference this time is that there are no angry statements from House Republicans saying in fact there is no deal. This time it seems both parties in Congress and the White House are well onboard with this. And the big push now will be to get this all written into legislative language so the House can vote on a bill soon, probably as early as tomorrow, and then the Senate. There's hope that this will send a message to financial markets opening in Asia that help is indeed on the way that will help unfreeze credit markets, which is what everyone is very worried about.

HANSEN: It appears some big issues have been resolved. What's going to happen about the parceling out of the money over time?

WELNA: Well, the $700 billion are going to be doled out in three parts. $250 billion would be available immediately to the Treasury secretary, and another $100 billion would be available once the Treasury makes a report to Congress. The remaining $350 billion could be blocked by Congress, but the president would be able to veto such action. And it would take a super majority from both chambers to override that veto. So that's almost as good as money in the bank for the Treasury.

HANSEN: And how are they going to prevent the big severance packages for people who have run some of these investment houses into the ground?

WELNA: The deal says there will be none of those so-called golden parachutes for executives of firms that are entirely taken over by the federal government. But in fact, this plan really is not aimed at taking over firms but rather buying up and holding their troubled mortgage-backed securities. And so the executives of the firms that simply sell those assets will be subject to some restrictions. It's not clear exactly what they'll be.

HANSEN: Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire is the chief Senate Republican in these negotiations, and he said the bailout is important for Wall Street and Main Street.

Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): This is about people's jobs. It's about people's savings. It's about people's ability to participate in commerce, send their kids to school, and be able to borrow money to run their small businesses.

HANSEN: David, Republicans wanted a capital gains tax cut in this at one point, and Democrats wanted bankruptcy judges to have the power to rewrite the terms of loans to make them more bearable. Did those provisions make it into the bill?

WELNA: They did not. There's no capital gains tax cut and there will be no bankruptcy judges rewriting the mortgage terms in this deal. But House Republicans did get another provision that they'd insisted on, which is an insurance program for mortgage-backed securities that would be paid for by these institutions. I think that's mostly symbolic though, and meant to pick up votes from those Republicans, because those institutions just don't have the money to pay for an insurance program right now.

HANSEN: And we know this isn't etched in stone yet. Can you briefly tell us what the key sticking points are now?

WELNA: Well, you know, I think that really the biggest question is how many lawmakers are going to actually vote for this, especially House Republicans. Democrats don't want to be the only ones delivering a bailout that's not exactly popular among voters who will be at the polls in November. So they're looking for Republicans to come onboard with them, and the big question is how many will.

HANSEN: Thanks, David. NPR's congressional correspondent David Welna. David, again, thank you.

WELNA: You're welcome, Liane.

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