Congress Wrestles with Details of Financial Bailout Plan

by Tracie Potts

NBC News

In Washington Tuesday, Congress is worried Wall Street may get something for nothing.

A 700-billion dollar bailout on a fast track to be approved this week with taxpayers taking most of the risk.

Will lawmakers go for that?

700 billion dollars, $2,000 for every man, woman and child in America to buy up Wall Street's debts, mostly from bad mortgages.

The Bush Administration wants action by Friday.

"We need to move very quickly here," said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

And that rush has democrats and republicans worried.

"Every time somebody tells you that you gotta do the deal right now, usually means that they're gonna get the better part of the deal," said Congressman Mike Pence a Republican from Indiana.

"The confidence of the markets will be determined by how well it works initially, not by how much money you have in your pocket next to your bazooka," said New York Democrat Chuck Schumer.

On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told lawmakers he'd have banks bid to sell their bad debts to the government like an auction.

But he's lean on details:

"We're gonna have to spend time learning as we go along," Paulson said.

"Shouldn't we have the process designed before we do a 700 billion dollar experiment?" asked Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming.

Paulson's for tough oversight, but against forcing banks to share profits with taxpayers or limiting what they pay top executives.

"This isn't about the companies. This is about the American people. We need something to work," Paulson said.

"All these other senators up here are gonna have to answer to their constituents if this plan does not work," said Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning.

The Federal Reserve Chairman warned if something's not done quickly, Consumers won't be able to get home loans, car loans, student loans and jobs and housing will suffer even more.

One idea being considered here is giving out the money over time.

150 billion now and more in January, if the economy hasn't rebounded.