WASHINGTON - The Bush administration urgently pressed Congress in public and private Tuesday to move quickly on a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry as Democratic and Republican lawmakers attacked Wall Street over a crisis that pushed the nation's economy to the brink.
Amid an aura of expectation in the financial markets, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told the Senate Banking Committee in prepared remarks that "quick passage of the administration's legislation "is the single most effective thing we can do to help homeowners, the American people and stimulate our economy."
But even before Paulson could speak, lawmakers expressed their misgivings.
"We all recognize the gravity of the situation," said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., the committee's chairman. He said the "economic maelstrom" was caused by a combination of "private greed and public regulatory neglect."
Financial markets appeared somewhat more upbeat Tuesday, with stocks showing a partial rebound from a huge sell-off as top economic officials updated Congress about efforts to hammer out a $700 billion financial rescue plan.
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the panel's senior Republican, spoke bluntly. "I have long opposed government bailouts for individuals and corporate American alike," he said, seated a few feet away from Paulson and Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal reserve.
"We have been given no credible assurances that this plan will work. We could very well send $700 billion, or a trillion, and not resolve the crisis," he said.