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The Bush administration insisted yesterday that Congress move quickly to approve what one lawmaker called the "mother of all bailouts" - a $700 billion proposal to buy a mountain of bad mortgage debt in an effort to unfreeze the nation's credit markets.

Speaking on US television, Mr Paulson said the financial market turmoil was a "humbling experience".He also urged other countries to adopt similar schemes to shore up confidence.

Congressional leaders endorsed the plan's main thrust, saying passage might occur in days. But they said it must be expanded to include help for people on Main Street, as well as for the big Wall Street financial firms that have lost billions of dollars with bad investment decisions.

The proposal "does not include the necessary safeguards," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. She called for "independent oversight, protections for homeowners, and constraints on excessive executive compensation."

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson stressed that time was critical to get the proposal passed and that changes to the administration's measure, which was sent to lawmakers Saturday, could delay that approval - further unsettling global financial markets, which have seen a number of stomach-churning days as the result of the biggest upheaval on Wall Street since the Great Depression.

"I wouldn't bet against the American people and I wouldn't bet against the long-term fundamentals of this country.
"But this is a humbling experience to see such fragility in capital markets and to ask how did we ever get here," Mr Paulson told NBC's Meet the Press.

The administration, which has been scrambling to deal with the tumult, said late yesterday that it was modifying a program announced just two days earlier to try to bolster the teetering $3 trillion money-market mutual fund industry.

On Friday, the government said it would use a $50 billion Treasury fund to provide government guarantees for money-market mutual fund accounts. However, in a significant revision announced late yesterday, the Treasury Department said it would only guarantee funds that were in the accounts as of Friday.

The guarantees were put in place to stem a wave of withdrawals from mutual fund accounts that had been sparked largely by panicked institutional investors.

But the banking industry complained that the new guarantees ran the risk of sparking withdrawals by their savings depositors who might decide to transfer their bank deposits, which are government-insured, to money-market mutual funds, which often pay more in interest than bank savings accounts but up until Friday had not enjoyed any government guarantees.

The American Bankers Association praised Treasury's about-face. "By limiting this new guarantee to funds that existed on or before last Friday, they have eliminated the incentive for people to move money out of bank accounts to seek a higher government guarantee," ABA president Edward Yingling said.

In another change, Treasury said funds deposited in tax-exempt money-market mutual funds as of Friday would also be covered. Originally, it had said those funds would not be covered because it might jeopardize their tax-exempt status.

Congressional and Treasury officials have been meeting over the weekend to try to get the package signed into law within a matter of days.

BBC quoted Gordon Brown told the BBC: "We're in a new economy, a global financial economy, the world is changing very fast, but the governance of the global financial system has not caught up with it and that's what's got to change."

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