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Obama, McCain Call for Changes in US Financial Bailout Plan

U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain both say they want changes in the Bush administration's proposed $700 billion response to the country's financial crisis. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.

As Congress debates the enormous package of legislation intended to rescue the troubled American financial industry, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain both seem to agree on some changes they want made.

Obama, the Democratic Party nominee, is calling for greater oversight over the massive bailout.

"I am prepared to work as hard and as long with them as possible to get it right, but what I am not willing to do is to put taxpayers in a position where they are writing a blank check and could end up being on the hook for enormous amounts of money with no assurance that it is actually going to solve the problem," he said.

The Republican nominee, McCain, also says increased oversight is essential. He suggests establishing a bipartisan board to oversee the bailout.

"That oversight for this rescue is absolutely essential," he said. "We will not solve a problem caused by poor oversight with a plan that has no oversight. Never before in the history of our nation has so much power and money been concentrated in the hands of one person, and there must be protections and oversight in place."

Both candidates also want to ensure that taxpayers are repaid if the bad loans are repackaged and sold at a profit, or if the rescued companies recover.

And both Obama and McCain insist on limiting the pay of executives at firms covered by the bailout.

"What the American people and taxpayers rightly expect is that there is going to be accountability, that this is not a welfare program for corporate CEO's," said Obama.

"It is wrong to ask teachers, farmers, small business owners to fill the gas tanks of the helicopters of Wall Street tycoons," said McCain.

McCain is demanding transparency in the bailout process, and wants to put the rescue proposals on the Internet for the public to see.

"This cannot be cobbled together behind closed doors," he said. "The American people have the right to know which businesses will be helped, and what the selection will be based on, and how much that help will cost."

Obama is calling for helping homeowners in danger of foreclosing, and he is again calling for tax cuts for middle-income Americans, which McCain has opposed.

"When it comes to the middle class tax cuts that I have called for, that is something that I believe is absolutely necessary to strengthen an economy that is going to be sliding, probably, into a deeper recession," he said.

While Obama and McCain held news conferences on the campaign trail Tuesday, top U.S. financial officials testified before a Senate committee on the $700 billion bailout proposal.

Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating four major U.S. financial institutions whose collapse led to the proposed bailout. Two law enforcement officials say the FBI is looking at possible fraud by mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as Lehman Brothers Holdings and the massive insurance company AIG.