Politics

Obama Seeks Additional $350 Billion in Financial Bailout Money

President-elect Barack Obama is seeking the release of the second half of the $700 billion financial bailout package, as his top economic adviser told congressional leaders in a letter Monday that the need for funding is "imminent and urgent." 

President Bush has agreed to ask Congress to release the remaining $350 billion on Obama's behalf, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said Monday morning.

Minutes after that announcement, Obama's transition team released a letter sent to Democratic and Republican lawmakers spelling out reforms that the president-elect intends to make for the distribution of the second half of the funding. 

Obama economic adviser Larry Summers wrote in the letter that the bailout prevented a "crisis" from becoming a "catastrophe," but that Americans have become "angry" after seeing too little effect from the plan on jobs, incomes and home-ownership. He also wrote that the process has not been transparent. 

"That will change when President-elect Obama takes office," Summers wrote. 

Summers pledged to increase oversight of the distribution and ensure a "full and accurate accounting" of the money. He pledged that the administration would help restart lending, address the foreclosure crisis better, encourage private investment over public funding and impose "tough and transparent" conditions on firms receiving the money. Those would include limits on executive compensation and dividend payments. 

Though Bush is transmitting the request, his administration will not try to persuade Congress to release the money or try to round up votes in support of the request. That job will fall to Obama's administration, which will have to negotiate with Congress to determine how the money should be spent. 

"We will continue our consultations with the president-elect's transition team, and with Congress, on how best to proceed in accordance with the requirements of the statute," Perino said in a written statement. 

Bush said at his final press conference Monday morning that he was willing to ask for the money if that's what Obama wanted. 

"I have talked to the President-elect about this subject. And I told him that if he felt that he needed the $350 billion, I would be willing to ask for it. In other words, if he felt it needed to happen on my watch," Bush said. "The best course of action, of course, is to convince enough members of the Senate to vote positively for the request." 

The idea is to make the money available to the new administration shortly after Obama takes office Jan. 20. The unpopular bailout has featured unconditional infusions of money into financial institutions that have done little to account for it. 

Republicans in both chambers are also skeptical about the second half of the bailout money, particularly because they think the recent use of some funding to bail out the auto industry signaled that the money is heading toward those with political clout rather than struggling financial institutions. 

Senate Democratic leadership aides said a vote on the money is likely to occur this week. 

The Bush administration and Obama have both been appealing to uneasy lawmakers for the money. 

Summers plans to return to the Senate for another round of meetings Tuesday with Senate Democrats on the finance committee, sources told FOX News. The Senate is likely to vote on the request before the House. Only one chamber needs to vote on the release of the funding. 

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said earlier that he'd been told the Obama team would be providing "specifics" on how the money will be disbursed and was feeling "better" about the process. 

"There's a greater chance of getting more votes" for an oversight package with such assurances in place, he said Sunday.

But the money won't be available until after Obama takes office next week. His administration will be responsible for spending it. 

Sen. John Kerry said Summers "made a very strong argument for why the additional funds are critical for the overall economic recovery." The Massachusetts Democrat said he expects Obama to "make it clear what he wants," even though the money will have to come from the Bush administration.

FOX News' Jim Angle and Trish Turner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.