Obama Pushes Passage of Wall Steet Rescue Bill
Updated 2:42 p.m.
By Perry Bacon Jr.
RENO, Nev. -- Sen. Barack Obama, initially only a reluctant supporter of a Wall Street rescue agreement Congress reached over the weekend, has shifted to aggressively pushing passage of the bill, describing a nightmare scenario in which "thousands of businesses could close around the country, millions of jobs could be lost, a long and painful recession could follow" without it.
"We must act and we must act now," Obama told thousands at the University of Nevada at Reno. "We cannot have another day like yesterday. We cannot risk another week or another month where American businesses are afraid to extend credit and lend money."
"For the rest of today and as long as it takes, I'll continue to reach out to leaders in both parties and do whatever I can," Obama said. "To the Democrats and Republicans who opposed this plan yesterday, I say -- step up to the plate and do what's right for this country."
Both Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, will appear for a vote on the rescue package, according to aides. And Obama planned to appear in interviews on all three major networks to press for the bill's passage as well.
Obama said the bill has been "misunderstood and poorly communicated."
"When it's called a bailout, nobody is in favor of a bailout," Obama said. "This is not a plan to just hand over $700 billion of your money to a few banks on Wall Street. If this is executed the right way, then the government will temporarily purchase the bad assets of our financial institutions so that they can start lending again, and then sell those troubled assets once the markets settle down and the economy recovers."
In the speech, he repeatedly highlighted how the crisis on Wall Street affected all Americans.
"Over one trillion dollars of wealth was lost by the time the markets closed on Monday," Obama said. "And it wasn't just the wealth of a few CEOs on Wall Street. The 401Ks and retirement accounts that millions count on for their family's futures are now smaller. The state pension funds of teachers and government employees lost billions and billions of dollars. Hardworking Americans who invested their nest egg to watch it grow are now watching it disappear. "
He added: "If all that meant was the failure of a few big banks on Wall Street, that'd be one thing. But that's not what it means. What it means is that if we don't act, it will be harder for you to get a mortgage for your home.... Thousands of businesses could close around the country. Millions of jobs could be lost. A long and painful recession could follow."
Obama used the speech to blast GOP efforts to deregulate the market, but at the same time said, "This is one of those defining moments when the American people are looking to Washington for leadership. It is not a time for politics." He invoked Franklin D. Roosevelt's "fireside chats" during the Great Depression as a reminder of how Americans could come together in hard times with the right leadership.
"There is plenty of blame to go around -- and many in Washington and Wall Street deserve it," Obama said, adding: "All of us now have a responsibility to solve this crisis because it affects the financial well-being of every single American. 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."
Obama aides say that he has contacted President Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and congressional leaders over the last two days.
Obama also is now lobbying Democrats who voted no to support the bill, and one target this morning was Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., Obama's Chicago colleague and one of the many Congressional Black Caucus leaders who voted against the plan. A spokesman for Jackson refused to disclose details of the conversation, including whether his boss had changed his mind about the package. But he did confirm that it had taken place this morning.
Posted at 2:13 PM ET on Sep 30, 2008
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