Presidential candidates unite on bailout plan

Presidential candidates unite on bailout plan

Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain found themselves in rare agreement, each demanding the Bush administration's unprecedented US$700bn (€477bn) bailout for US financial institutions be subject to independent oversight and guarantees their top executives not be rewarded.

While sounding tough, both senators have assumed positions on the bailout that appear likely to match the shape of the programme when it emerges from Congress.

It appeared certain to win approval given the possible consequences - the collapse of the US and global economies.

A new poll found that Americans approved the bailout by a nearly two-to-one margin and saw Mr Obama as best able to deal with the mounting financial crisis.

The Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press survey, conducted between Friday and Monday, showed 57% of voters believed the government was doing the right thing, while 30% opposed the bailout.

The survey also found 47% believed Mr Obama, a Democrat, would best handle the financial meltdown as opposed to 35% who favoured Mr McCain, a Republican, in that role.

Mr Obama interrupted his preparations for Friday's first debate with Mr McCain to tell reporters he could not support the bailout without those assurances as well as two others - a payback to American taxpayers who are financing the bailout and help for US homeowners facing mortgage foreclosure.

He also lashed out at president George Bush for what he called the administration's "my-way-or-the-highway intransigence" in putting forward a plan that would have given treasury secretary Henry Paulson total discretion - without outside oversight - to use the huge fund to buy up bad investments of banks and other financial institutions.

Mr McCain also held a news conference, his first in more than a month, to declare that the rescue package would cost each American household US$10,000 (€6,817) and to demand that the programme be fully transparent.

"This can't be cobbled together behind closed doors," the four-term Arizona senator said.

He also insisted, as he had earlier, that the programme sponsored by Mr Bush, a fellow Republican, would ensure that "taxpayers' dollars don't line the pockets of executives".

Mr McCain and Mr Obama faced reporters after the Senate Banking Committee had grilled Mr Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke about the bailout plan.

Mr Bernanke warned the panel that the economy would plunge into recession without quick action.

Neither Mr McCain nor Mr Obama have left the campaign trail to return to Washington to address the crisis.

Earlier, Mr Obama warned that the deepening financial crisis and likely bailout meant he could be forced to delay expansive spending programmes outlined during his campaign for the White House.

In an interview with NBC television, Mr Obama said he would have to study what happens to the United States' tax revenues before making decisions on budgeting for his promised initiatives on national health care, education, energy and other concerns.

Still, he insisted he would move forward on tax cuts for Americans earning less than $250,000 (€170,397) annually.

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