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 said.
The initiative could create an unusual political scenario. If Congress were to vote down the measure, either President George W. Bush or President-elect Barack Obama would have to use his veto power to get the money.
Obama officials would prefer that Bush exercise any veto rather than leave the new president with the task of rebuffing fellow Democrats in Congress to advance a widely unpopular program, sources said. The White House has declined to say publicly whether Bush would be willing to issue the veto.
"There have been discussions between the administration and the transition team on how to proceed should the president-elect determine that he would like President Bush to notify Congress on his behalf of the intent to use the remaining $350 billion so that it will be available early in the new administration," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "No final decisions have been made."
But Democratic Senate aides were notified in a meeting yesterday 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 condition of anonymity because no decisions have been made.
Under the emergency rescue legislation approved by Congress in October, the administration must inform lawmakers that 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.