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Paulson, Bernanke Face Skepticism In Congress

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

BLOCK: $700 billion Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson wants Congress to authorize. That would allow the government to buy bad debts and take them off the hands of financial companies.

BLOCK: Joining Paulson before a confrontational Senate Banking Committee today were the heads of the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency. They faced bipartisan skepticism and, at times, borderline hostility.

BLOCK: We do have to act, but we have to act smartly, wisely and relevantly. We need to act.

BLOCK: I am not going to be stampeded into rubber-stamping this proposal.

BLOCK: The Paulson proposal is an attempt to do what we so often do in Washington, D.C.: Throw money at a problem.

BLOCK: I have very strong concerns that this rescue proposal will unfairly hold taxpayers responsible for the costly and reckless decisions of investment bankers on Wall Street.

: We just heard Democrats Charles Schumer and Robert Menendez, and Republicans Jim Bunning and Elizabeth Dole.

BLOCK: And Montana Democrat Jon Tester summed up lawmakers' frustration when he asked this.

BLOCK: Why do we have one week to determine $700 billion that has to be appropriated, or this country's financial systems go down the pipes?

: Well, here's a sampling of the answers.

BLOCK: This is in the best interest of all Americans.

BLOCK: That's Treasury Secretary Paulson. He said it's not about rescuing Wall Street; it's about protecting Main Street.

BLOCK: Every American business depends on money flowing through our system every day, not only to expand their business and create jobs, but to maintain normal business operations and to sustain jobs.

BLOCK: And Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was uncharacteristically blunt.

BLOCK: I believe if the credit markets are not functioning, that jobs will be lost, the unemployment rate will rise, more houses will be foreclosed upon, GDP will contract. The economy will just not be able to recover in a normal, healthy way no matter what other policies are taken. I therefore think this is a precondition for a good, healthy recovery by our economy.

BLOCK: That's Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke before Congress today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.