WASHINGTON House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi left open the possibility on Thursday of passing financial industry reform legislation this year, but said she has not been given a preview of any proposals that the Bush administration could be crafting.
"If we work together with the administration to do something before January, before the elections, all the better," Pelosi told reporters.
But when asked about a Wall Street Journal editorial that said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had a proposal ready but has been spurned by lawmakers, Pelosi chafed, "You don't know what it is and neither do I."
Pelosi added, "Secretary Paulson knows we have been the ones who have been responsive to his overtures."
Shortly before Pelosi's media conference, President George W. Bush delivered a brief statement from the White House, saying he was prepared to take further measures to stabilize and strengthen financial markets.
Congress is trying to wrap up its legislative session within a week or so, allowing lawmakers to campaign for re-election. On November 4, voters will pick a new U.S. president, while all 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate are also up for grabs.
The economy has become an overriding concern for voters in recent weeks, with Wall Street in the midst of an historic financial crisis that has led to the government takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and government regulators rescuing major U.S. financial firms.
"I don't think the American people want us to wait until next year" to fix the problem, Pelosi said. But she added that congressional committees first must investigate what has happened and she has told two key House panels to begin.
Among ideas circulating are the creation of an entity that would take over troubled assets, much like the Resolution Trust Corp. did during the 1980-1990s savings and loan crisis.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is one of the House panels looking into how profound problems in the U.S. mortgage industry and on Wall Street are rippling through global financial markets and the world economy.
Its chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, had a different outlook from Pelosi's on chances for reform legislation in the next few months.
"We're not going to pass legislation this year," Waxman told reporters on Wednesday. "It's going to end up in the hands of the next administration and the next Congress," he said, adding that this Congress "has to find out what happened, why it happened, who is responsible and how we ought to go forward in the future."
(Editing by Philip Barbara)