WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush urged Congress to take "urgent" action on measures outlined Sunday by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to prop up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Speaking to reporters at the White House Tuesday, Bush urged lawmakers to attach the emergency measures to housing legislation which passed Congress last week.
"I hope they move quickly," Bush said.
But he said the government wouldn't take control of the two companies, saying he didn't believe the government had a role in bailing out private enterprises — even if they are government sponsored enterprises like Fannie and Freddie.
"We want to make sure they remain shareholder-owned companies," he said.
Bush said he hoped the package outlined by Paulson would reinforce confidence in the U.S housing market, both at home and abroad.
"It's going to be very important for these institutions to focus on their core mission, which is to provide refinancing for the mortgage industry," said Bush.
He reiterated the fact that the majority of peoples' banking deposits are insured by the federal government.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. guarantees deposits up to $100,000 in a U.S. bank account.
"You don't have to worry about it if you've got less than $100,000 in the bank," he said.
Bush said the federal government wouldn't take action to rescue other U.S. companies like General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. Both automaking giants currently are having to make cuts and raise funds as buyers have turned away from their products with increasing gasoline prices.
Asked whether following the collapse of Indymac Bancorp. last week, the U.S. banking system was in crisis, Bush said he believed the system "basically is sound."
Bush also urged Congress to take action to allow oil companies to conduct offshore exploratory drilling, something Democrats in Congress have so far resisted.
He said that such drilling was urgent, and accused Congress of "standing in the way" of allowing it.
"I readily concede that it's not going to produce a barrel of oil tomorrow," said Bush.
But he said it would send a signal to the world that the U.S. was taking action to address the oil crisis.
He declined to tap the country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve in a bid to address the short-term spike in gasoline prices.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has repeatedly urged the administration to release some of the country's gasoline reserves to help lower the price of gas at the pumps.