Conservative Republicans offer bailout alternative

A flag hangs outside the New York Stock Exchange September 22, 2008. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives offered a mortgage insurance plan on Thursday as an alternative to the Bush administration’s $700-billion Wall Street bailout.

As Congress struggled to find agreement on modifying the massive Bush proposal to attack the housing market crisis, three members of the Republican Study Committee criticized the administration’s proposal and presented their own ideas.

“We think this insurance model works... This is an alternative,” Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan said at a press briefing where he distributed a one-page proposal.

He said dozens of House Republicans are involved in the group developing the alternative insurance approach.

Texas Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the study committee, said its more than 100 members “remain skeptical, fearful and unconvinced” about the administration’s plan.

“The insurance model is one that appeals to us,” he said.

The conservative group called for the U.S. government to offer insurance coverage for the roughly half of all mortgage-backed securities that it does not already insure.

The Treasury Department, they said, should charge premiums to holders of those securities to finance the insurance.

They also called for temporary tax cuts and regulatory relief for businesses. In addition, they said, financial institutions participating in their proposed program would have to disclose more about their mortgage asset holdings.

Reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh; Editing by Tim Dobbyn