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House passes bailout bill
Financial Meltdown web1l
In this photo rendered from video via C-SPAN, the final vote tally is shown on the floor of the House of Representatives, Friday, Oct. 3, 2008, in Washington. Congress has passed historic legislation to bail out the troubled financial industry. The final vote, 263-171 in the House, capped two weeks of tumult in Congress and on Wall Street, punctuated by daily warnings that the country confronted the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression if lawmakers failed to act. - photo by Associated Press

WASHINGTON - With the economy on the brink and elections looming, Congress approved an unprecedented $700 billion government bailout of the battered financial industry on Friday and sent it to President Bush for his certain signature.

The final vote, 263-171 in the House, capped two weeks of tumult in Congress and on Wall Street, punctuated by daily warnings that the country confronted the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression if lawmakers failed to act.

Bush was poised to make a statement on the historic vote.

"We all know that we are in the midst of a financial crisis," House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio, said shortly before casting his vote for government intervention in private capital markets that was unthinkable only a month ago.

"And we know that if we do nothing, this crisis is likely to worsen and to put us into an economic slump like most of us have never seen."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the bill was needed to "Begin to shape the financial stability of our country and the economic security of our people."

Stocks were up on Wall Street, where there was a lot of anticipation of the vote but where investors also were buffeted by a bad report on the job market. The Labor Department said employers slashed 159,000 jobs in September, the largest cut in five years and further evidence of a sinking economy.

Even before the measure cleared Congress, the White House sought to dampen optimism of its immediate impact on the economy. "This legislation is to fix a problem in our financial markets," said spokesman Tony Fratto. "It's not sold as giving a boost to the economy, but rather preventing a crisis in our economy... If it works as we hope it will, credit will be able to begin flowing again."

The House vote marked a sharp change from Monday, when an earlier measure was sent down to defeat, largely at the hands of angry conservative Republicans.

Senate leaders quickly took custody of the measure, adding on $110 billion in tax and spending provisions designed to attract additional support, then grafting on legislation mandating broader mental health coverage in the insurance industry. The revised measure won Senate approval Wednesday night, 74-25, setting up a furious round of lobbying in the House as the administration, congressional leaders, the major party presidential candidates and outside groups joined forces behind the measure.

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