US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urged Congress on Sunday to swiftly pass his financial rescue plan, signaling that measures to help embattled homeowners could wait.
"We need this to be clean and quick and we need to get it in place," Paulson said in an ABC television interview.
Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Congress have protested that the 700-billion-dollar plan to buy the toxic mortgage-related assets of financial institutions should also help ordinary Americans faced with the worst housing slump in decades.
"There are many people in this country that need help. But the biggest help we can give the American people is to stabilize our financial system right now," Paulson said.
President George W. Bush's administration has urged the Congress to move quickly on the plan, unveiled late Friday, or the economy could collapse.
Paulson said it was essential to prevent the financial system from clogging up.
"Because if it does clog up, this is going to have an adverse effect on people's abilities to get jobs, on their budgets, on their retirement savings, on lending for small businesses and so that's where the first priority has got to be," he said.
Paulson acknowledged that American homeowners need help in the wake of the US subprime mortgage crisis that triggered a global credit crunch 14 months ago. Tight credit has sent foreclosures spiking and home values have fallen as a glut of unsold homes sit on the market.
"Once we get the system stabilized, there's a lot of other things to be done," Paulson said.
"Working to avoid foreclosure, working with services, interested participants and it sure seems to me that as we buy these mortgage-backed assets we will have much more leverage in working on the kinds of programs we need to work on," he added.