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Future of rescue bill uncertain in House

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House Democrats are uncertain whether the new version of a $700 billion Wall Street rescue bill can pass the House, even if it does clear the Senate as expected late Wednesday.

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn said the “sweeteners” the Senate inserted to win support of Republicans could scare off some Democrats and make it difficult for the measure to pass the House.

“That's a great possibility,” South Carolina Democrat said Wednesday on MSNBC. “Any time you reach out to one side when you've got a delicate balance like this, you've got - you might lose on the other side.”

The Senate is expected to pass the newly altered bill late Wednesday night, and it would then go back to the House, which on Monday defeated the initial version, 228-205.

But the changes, including extending a package of tax cuts, irk fiscally conservative Democrats who say those cuts must be paid for with tax increases or spending cuts.

Those members, who call themselves the Blue Dogs, were silent Wednesday.

Still, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said with the changes the bill “has a much better chance than we had on Monday” of passage. He said House leaders were eyeing a vote either late Thursday or early Friday.

Only 65 of the House's 198 Republicans voted for the original measure Monday, and Mr. Boehner has been sharply criticized for failing to deliver more GOP votes.

But he argued in an interview on “Fox News” that revolts by House Republicans against the original Bush administration blueprint and the compromise version before the House on Monday had helped to improve the final product.

“This bill has gotten better because the House Republicans twice stood on principle,” he said.

Some conservative Republicans still oppose the plan's central tenet, which calls for the taxpayer money to purchase failed loans dragging down the books of the nation's banks and financial firms.

But Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona, a leading conservative Republican, told a Phoenix radio station Wednesday that he'd be “inclined to vote for the bill” if it raised the cap on federal deposit insurance and changed a rule that forces companies to devalue assets on their balance sheets to reflect the price they can get on the market.

The revised package to be voted on in the Senate also would add $100 billion in tax breaks for businesses and the middle class, whiles temporarily increasing the federal insurance coverage for bank deposits from the current $100,000 to $250,000. Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission has said it is easing the accounting rules in some cases.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, downplayed speculation that the measure would fail in the House, saying “I would not have moved forward if I didn't think the chance of passage in the House was good.”

*This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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