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High-stake politics of US bailout plan
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By Yang Qingchuan

The hottest issue now in the United States is the 700-billion-US-dollar bailout plan proposed by the Bush administration, which will be the largest financial rescue operation since the Great Depression.

Under the present political climate, the issue is far more than an economic decision the country has to make, and high-stake bipartisan politics are being intensely played out and will determine the outcome of the bailout debate.

There are two dimensions to the bailout political game. One is between the President George W. Bush-led Republican administration and the Democrat-dominated Congress, the other is between John McCain and Barack Obama as they compete for the country's highest political office.

Bush seeks upper hand 

Obviously, the evolving financial turmoil cannot be a plus for Bush, whose popularity is still hovering around a historic low of some 30 percent due to the Iraq war and the economic downturn.

But it also offers an opportunity for him to apply pressure on the Democrats and force them to agree to his terms.

The common reaction to the bailout plan has been suspicion and the majority of Americans are yet to be convinced by it. Polls show only some 30 percent of the populace support the plan.

But there is also a prevailing sense of urgency in which Bush sees an opening.

A CNN survey shows about 80 percent of Americans are worried that inaction from the government on the financial storm will make things worse.

It raises the stakes for Democrats, because they do not want to be seen as onlookers and there is a change of attitude in the Democratic leadership towards the bailout plan.

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the financial problems are "their (the Bush administration's) problems" and the rescue plan "their solution".

But the worsening financial situation made her change her mind quickly and now she is calling for quick action to solve the problem as many other Democrats have.

Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, pointed out that Democrats cannot duck the issue because the stakes are too high.

Thomas Mann, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, said the fear of an economic meltdown will force both parties to make an outcome but Democrats will leave their footprints on the legislation.

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