Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) just threw a serious gauntlet at Paulson, suggesting Congress might quickly agree to a $150 billion downpayment on the bailout -- followed by a reassessment on January 15th to see how the program is working -- and how much more cash is needed.
"Could you live with less?" Schumer asked: "I'd ask you to think about this—I know ideally you want [the whole amount]—you are not going to use $700 billion in the next three months. $150 billion is a lot of money [to] have in your pocket next to your bazooka."
Paulson didn't like it.
"I think that would be grave mistake," he said.
"This is about market confidence and the tools to do the job," he added, saying that he needed all the money to deal with unanticipated contingencies quickly.
Earlier, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed pushed his own proposal to give the government an equity stake in bailed-out firms to assure taxpayers benefit if the value of companies as the market stabilizes.
Paulson again bristled, arguing it could dissuade some banks from opting into the program, diluting its impact.
The Dow is up 30.