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Candidates push for bipartisan financial rescue

Presidential rivals Barack Obama and John McCain on Tuesday appealed for bipartisanship on a plan to save America's collapsing financial sector at the same time they accused each other of supporting policies that would make a bad situation worse.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Presidential rivals Barack Obama and John McCain on Tuesday appealed for bipartisanship on a plan to save America's collapsing financial sector at the same time they accused each other of supporting policies that would make a bad situation worse.

Both avoided calling the plan a bailout a day after the stock market chalked up a record one-day point decline as Congress rejected the $700 billion rescue effort. They separately proposed that the government insure consumers' bank deposits up to $250,000, over the current $100,000 limit, to boost Americans' faith in weakened banks.

They also rolled out fresh advertisements tying the other to the Wall Street crisis.

Democrat Obama warned it would be "catastrophic" if a deal isn't reached soon. He said Congress should build on the bill rejected by the House of Representatives on Monday rather than start from scratch on what he called "the economic rescue plan."

"Given the progress we have made, I believe we are unlikely to succeed if we start from scratch or reopen negotiations about the core elements of the agreement," the Illinois senator said in a statement. "But in order to pass this plan, we must do more."

McCain, whose own Republicans were largely responsible for sinking the bill, acknowledged that lawmakers had failed to convince voters that the deal was urgent.

He said he recommended to President George W. Bush on Tuesday morning that the Treasury's Exchange Stabilization Fund of $250 billion be used to shore up institutions and that the Treasury exercise its ability to buy up $1 trillion in mortgages.

"Housing and mortgages are at the root of this crisis," the Republican senator said later at a small business round-table in Des Moines, in the Midwestern swing state of Iowa. "I urge Treasury to take action to shore up mortgage values."

Ten days of political and market uncertainty have underscored the importance of the economic debacle in a presidential campaign with five weeks to run. Without a solution, the issue has the potential to become even more combustible in the next several days when millions of retirees and workers receive quarterly statements showing sharp drops in their personal investment accounts.

Obama has been gaining in numerous national and swing-state polls in recent days, while McCain has appeared to struggle since he said said that the "fundamentals" of the economy were strong the same day that Lehman Brothers failed, and announced a brief suspension in his campaign appearances to help solve the crisis last week. The Gallup Poll daily tracking survey on Monday showed Obama with a 50 percent to 42 percent lead over McCain.

Obama, campaigning in the western battleground state of Nevada, said he had talked with Bush, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other leaders Tuesday about resurrecting the recovery plan. He also sought to reassure the public, saying the plan had been "misunderstood and poorly communicated."

"This is not a plan to just hand over $700 billion of your money to a few banks on Wall Street," Obama told supporters at a rally at the University of Nevada at Reno.

Obama called for cooperation between Democrats and Republicans in a time of financial crisis.

"While there is plenty of blame to go around and many in Washington and on Wall Street who deserve it, all of us now have a responsibility to solve this crisis because it affects the financial well-being of every single American," he said. "There will be time to punish those who set this fire, but now is the moment for us to come together and put the fire out."

After voting down the Bush administration proposal, lawmakers poured scorn on one another then took a break for the Jewish New Year. They were expected later this week to resume negotiating a way out of the United States' worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

In a brief televised address Tuesday morning, Bush warned that failure to act to save the rescue plan would inflict "painful and lasting damage to the economy."

Meanwhile, Obama and the Republican National Committee put out fresh TV ads on the crisis.

The two-minute Obama commercial promotes his economic plan and accuses McCain of following Bush's policies. The new Republican ad airing in six battleground states says Obama's economic plans would make things worse.

The ads came the morning after both Obama and McCain tried to deflect blame to each other. Obama said McCain had been opposing needed financial regulation for years. McCain declared Obama was putting his political ambitions ahead of the good of the nation.

The vice presidential candidates, Democrat Joe Biden, the veteran Delaware senator, and Republican Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, had no public campaign events scheduled as they prepared for their nationally televised debate Thursday night.

More than two-thirds of Republicans — Bush's own party — and 40 percent of Democrats opposed the rescue bill.

The House vote sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average into a 777-point tailspin — its biggest point drop ever.