WASHINGTON — Senior Bush administration officials, consulting with the Obama transition team, have prepared a plan to ask lawmakers for the second half of the $700-billion financial rescue package despite intense opposition in Congress, sources familiar with the discussions told the Washington Post.
The initiative could create an unusual political scenario. If Congress were to vote down the measure, either President Bush or Obama would have to exercise a veto to get the money.
Obama officials would prefer Bush exercise any veto rather than leave the new president with the unsavory task of rebuffing his fellow Democrats to advance a widely unpopular program, sources said. The White House has declined to say whether Bush would be willing to issue the veto.
"There have been discussions between the administration and the transition team on how to proceed," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. ". . . No final decisions have been made."
But Democratic Senate aides were notified in a meeting Friday afternoon that the request could come as soon as this weekend and that a vote could be held as early as next week, said congressional sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because no decisions have been made.
Under the emergency rescue legislation approved by Congress in October, the administration must inform lawmakers it wants access to the second installment of $350-billion. Unless Congress passes a resolution rejecting the request within 15 days, the Treasury can begin to tap the funds. If Congress turns down the request, the president could veto the resolution and the Treasury could proceed. The money would be blocked only if Congress overrides the veto by a two-thirds majority in both chambers.
A congressional source said advocates of the plan are exploring whether there are enough votes in the Senate for a veto.
Both Bush and Obama officials say gaining access to the balance of the rescue funds is crucial to turning the economy around. Without the money, it would be nearly impossible to offer significant help for homeowners facing foreclosure, stabilize the financial system or jump-start the credit markets so more consumers and companies can get loans.