Obama Urges Senate to Pass Rescue Plan and 'Put Out That Fire'
By Jonathan Weisman
Sen. Barack Obama returned to the United States Senate this evening to deliver an unflinching defense of the $700 billion Wall Street rescue plan to be voted on tonight, imploring members from both parties leery of the plan to "step up to the plate" and "do what's right for the country."
Speaking from an obscured corner of the chamber, behind the desk of a junior senator, Obama said the path out of the current financial crisis would be a rough road. "There's no real separation between Wall Street and Main Street," he said. "There's only the road we're traveling on as Americans, and we will rise or fall on that journey as one nation and as one people. I know that many Americans are feeling anxiety right now, about their jobs about their homes, about their life savings. But I also know this: that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis. We always have."
In an extended campaign for the presidency, Obama and his rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have missed a substantial number of votes, but both left the campaign trail today to vote for the massive rescue package when it comes up around 9 p.m. tonight. The measure still has opposition from the left and the right, but with Obama, McCain and the Democratic and Republican leadership backing it, the measure is expected to pass the Senate easily.
In a brief Capitol basement interview, Obama said he had spoken with "quite a few" House lawmakers today, although he offered no names beyond House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
His Senate floor speech reprised the campaign address he gave earlier in the day in LaCrosse, Wis., when he decried the greed and deregulatory zeal that he said brought the nation to this point but said, "There will be time to punish those who set this fire. But now is not the time to argue about how it got set, or did the neighbor sleep in his bed or leave the stove on. Right now, we want to put out that fire."
Obama came onto the floor at the tail end of a speech by scandal-scarred Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who then left the chamber. Democratic senators filed in, but only one Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, sat on the GOP side of the aisle.
When Obama finished, he was mobbed by well-wishers who shook his hand, hugged him and spoke at length. A few of them, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), are not likely to take his advice on the vote.
Posted at 5:49 PM ET on Oct 1, 2008
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