Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican rival John McCain said the resurrected financial bailout bill isn't perfect but warned Wednesday that the economic crisis will become a full-fledged disaster if Congress rejects it.
"This will not solve all our problems," Obama said in an evening speech on the Senate floor. "This is what we need to do right now, to prevent the possibility of a crisis turning into a catastrophe."
McCain was in Washington to cast his vote as well, but he did not intend to speak. Before the roll was called, the Arizona senator dined in Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell's office. Inside the chamber, Obama initiated a handshake with McCain.
McCain's decision not to speak about the bill in the Senate chamber contrasted with Obama, who used the opportunity before his colleagues and the TV cameras to lay out his rationale for backing the measure and explain his economic vision.
McCain is usually is a ready Republican participant in trying to work out compromises on major pieces of stalled legislation.
But as a presidential candidate and while Congress negotiated the bill, McCain has struggled to strike the right balance between being involved in the crisis without appearing to exploit the situation for political purposes. McCain rushed back to Washington last week to help, saying he was not going to "phone in" his advice — and Democrats accused him of politicizing the crisis.
'Grind to a halt'
The Republican let his words speak for him earlier Wednesday at the Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Mo. "If we fail to act, the gears of our economy will grind to a halt," he said in a speech.
It's been rough going for the bailout package and it was hoped that rare appearances by Sens. Obama and McCain would help propel it to passage. The candidates in turn were seeking political advantage by addressing the top issue on voters' minds.
In reality, the candidates have had little to do with drafting the bill's various versions. And their influence over their Senate counterparts was unclear; the Senate vote was not expected to be unanimous.
The House on Monday rejected an earlier version, sending the stock market into a 778-point dive.
Wednesday it was the Senate's turn. In rare agreement, leaders of both parties were presenting a rewrite with a variety of sweeteners for those lawmakers reluctant to vote 'yes' a little more than a month before Election Day.
Obama urged any lawmakers on the fence to "step up to the plate."
"Let's do what's right for the country at this time, because the time to act is now," he said.
Changes added to the bill
Lawmakers of both parties said Wednesday the changes made the bill more palatable. McCain, in Missouri, said he was pleased that the bill includes taxpayer protections, limitations on executive compensation and sufficient protections for people's bank accounts.
They include an increase in Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. protection for bank accounts from $100,000 to $250,000. Both McCain and Obama had endorsed the hike in deposit insurance.
In La Crosse, Wis., Obama vowed that his administration would "create new rules of the road to prevent another crisis" and said: "Financial institutions will do their part and pay their share, and American taxpayers will never again have to put their money on the line to pay for the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street."
After McCain's campaign initially blamed Obama for contributing to the failure of the bill in the House, McCain himself avoided attacking, or even mentioning, Obama in his speech in Independence, Mo.
Instead, McCain stuck largely to promoting the broader points of his economic plan and promised that a McCain administration would "apply new rules to Wall Street, to end the frenzies of speculation by people gaming the system and to make sure that this present crisis is never repeated."