WASHINGTON - Leaders of the Senate Banking Committee insisted yesterday that the Bush administration modify its proposed $700 billion bailout of the financial industry to include transparency, stronger accountability, and assistance for existing homeowners. Meanwhile, federal officials warned that Congress must approve a plan that avoids restrictions and gives the government as much flexibility as possible in order to avoid a financial meltdown.

In testimony before the committee, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke each said the current financial situation is dire and that if Congress does not act, the financial well-being of American families will be threatened by frozen credit markets, and the viability of our economy will be placed into jeopardy.

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