Congress delayed approval of a housing bill in order to deal with the government’s request for open-ended support of the two mortgage giants.

“If you’ve got a squirt gun in your pocket you may have to take it out,” [Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson] said. “If you’ve got a bazooka, and people know you have it, then you may not have to take it out. By making it unspecified, it will greatly expand the likelihood it will not have to be used.”

Separately, a key regulator moved to shore up cash access for the banking industry.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.