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Obama aides offer more assurances on bailout money

President-elect Barack Obama's aides indicated that US$350 billion in remaining financial bailout aid would not be used for ailing industries in other sectors, Republican senators said on Wednesday, adding such assurances could boost support for the plan.
Facing a key vote in the Senate on whether the US$350 billion should be released to the Treasury Department at Obama's behest, his aides met with skeptical Republican senators. Several of those senators said that as early as yesterday, the incoming Obama administration could float a letter providing reassurances the money would be focused on trying to fix the financial industry crisis that has also left millions of families experiencing home foreclosures.
South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune said a public statement might be helpful in easing the concerns of some Republicans and South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint said he believed such a statement would be made by Obama's team.
They were among several Republican senators who met with Rahm Emanuel, Obama's pick to be White House chief of staff, and National Economic Council Director-designate Larry Summers as they tried to bolster support for releasing the money. The two officials did not comment on the meeting.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, planned to hold a vote yesterday on a resolution by Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter that would block releasing the money.
The vote comes with bank stocks under pressure due to expected enormous quarterly losses. Additionally, Bank of America Corp is close to receiving billions of U.S. dollars of additional support from the U.S. government as it tries to digest investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co Inc.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there was progress toward finalizing a massive economic stimulus bill.
"We are zeroing in on a final number," Pelosi told reporters. "We are containing it, recognizing that what we have in the package must create jobs immediately."
One government source, who asked not to be identified, said it would likely total around US$850 billion over two years.
For weeks, Democrats have been talking about a combination of tax cuts and government public works projects aimed at creating or maintaining 3 million jobs. Republicans have been skeptical about new spending programs.
"This is a package that I think is gonna make sense. I have every confidence that it's gonna work," Obama told the "CBS Evening News" in an interview broadcast on Wednesday. "But it's gonna take some time and we've gotta do it with some speed. So my main message to Congress right now is "get it done.'"

Updated : 2021-06-21 16:15 GMT+08:00