McCain Urges Lawmakers To Try Again

The presidential campaign was overshadowed Monday after the collapse of the Wall Street rescue plan. Republican presidential hopeful John McCain hit the campaign trail calling for Congress to go back to work immediately on a bailout plan. The Arizona senator blamed Democrats and his rival Barack Obama for the legislation's failure.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The collapse of the financial-rescue plan before the House of Representatives, and the plunge in the stock market largely drowned out the presidential campaign yesterday. Barack Obama and John McCain were both talking about the crisis. And we have two reports, beginning with NPR's Scott Horsley, who's traveling with Senator McCain.

SCOTT HORSLEY: John McCain is calling on Congress to go back to work immediately on a rescue plan that can pass the House. He says the solution of the credit crisis is vitally important, to families and small businesses.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona, Presidential Nominee): Now is not the time to fix the blame, it's time to fix the problem.

HORSLEY: But in almost the same breath, McCain tried to blame Democrats for the rescue's failure. His advisers and other Republicans singled out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for attacking President Bush, in what she called right-wing ideology, shortly before the House vote. McCain also named his Democratic rival, Barack Obama.

Senator MCCAIN: Our leaders are expected to leave partisanship at the door, and come to the table to solve our problems. Senator Obama and his allies in Congress, infused unnecessary partner - partisanship into the process.

HORSLEY: Democrats on the other hand say it was McCain who politicized the rescue negotiations, when he left the campaign trail for Washington last week, bringing the klieg lights of presidential politics along with him. McCain says he was trying to make sure House Republicans were included in the talks.

More than two-thirds of those Republicans ended up voting against the plan, but McCain's aids say the "no" vote would have been even more lopsided, without his intervention. Shortly before the vote, McCain was taking credit for his work on the rescue plan at a campaign rally in Ohio.

Senator MCCAIN: You know remarkably, some people have criticized my decision to put my country first, but I'll never be a president who sits on the sidelines, when this country faces a crisis. I'll never do that.

HORSLEY: The rally in Bexley, Ohio, was McCain's first large-scale campaign event in a week. He was joined by running mate Sarah Palin. She praised McCain for his performance in the first presidential debate last Friday. And said, now, it's her turn.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska, Vice-Presidential Candidate): And I do look forward to Thursday night in debating Senator Joe Biden.

(Soundbite of cheers)

Governor PALIN: We are going to talk about those new ideas, new energy for America. I'm looking forward to meeting him too. I've never met him before, but, I've been hearing about his Senate speeches since I was in like second grade.

HORSLEY: Palin has been widely criticized and parodied, after a rambling interview with Katie Couric of CBS News last week. But McCain insist she'll be a strong partner in Washington. The two appeared together in a follow-up interview on CBS News last night.

While Palin is prepping for Thursday's debate, McCain had been scheduled to return to Washington, for what was supposed to be a Senate vote on the rescue plan. McCain is still urging lawmakers to go back to the drawing board, during what he calls an hour of crisis for our nation's economy.

Senator MCCAIN: I believe that the challenges facing our economy could have a grave impact on every American worker, small-business owner, and family, if our leaders fail to act.

HORSLEY: McCain said those leaders should put aside short-term political goals, not easily done 35 days before a presidential election. Scott Horsley, NPR News, West Des Moines, Iowa.

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