WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives gave final approval on Friday to the $700 billion bailout for the financial system, reversing course to authorize what may be the most expensive government intervention in history.

At 1:21 p.m., applause and cheers echoed through the House chamber as the number of “aye” votes crossed the threshold needed for passage with just seconds remaining in the official 15-minute voting period. The vote was 263 to 171.

And in a sign of the urgency surrounding the package, Congressional staff rushed the newly printed legislation into a news conference where Democratic leaders gathered after the vote and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, signed it, at exactly 2 p.m.

Within an hour, the legislation had been conveyed to the White House and signed by President Bush. Standing in the Rose Garden shortly before signing the document, the president thanked Congressional leaders of both parties by name and said they had achieved something “essential to helping America’s economy weather the financial crisis.”

Earlier, Ms. Pelosi said the measure was essential to “begin to shape the financial stability of our country and the economic security of our people.”

Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican minority leader, had urged passage by warning that “if we do nothing, this crisis is likely to worsen and to put us into an economic slump like most of us have never seen.”

Read more here.

Peter Fray

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