McCain, Obama Urge Congress To Act On Bailout

John McCain and Barack Obama called for the government to raise the limit on federal insurance for bank deposits from $100,000 to $250,000. Both also tried to hammer home the importance of congressional action on the bailout.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The financial crisis was also on the minds of the presidential candidates today, and we're joined now by two of our correspondents covering the campaign. Scott Horsley is with John McCain in Des Moines, Iowa, and Don Gonyea is with Barack Obama in Reno, Nevada. And, Don, let's start with you. The day began with a statement from Senator Obama suggesting that the government raise the limit on federal insurance for bank deposits. He wants it raised from $100,000 to $250,000.

DON GONYEA: Right. They put out an early, early morning statement. They wanted to make sure it was on the news this morning. He said $100,000 is plenty for most families, but the concern is that for small businesses, that need to have more cash on hand. They have cash in bank accounts to make payroll or to pay suppliers. That $100,000 limit just isn't enough. It hasn't been adjusted for inflation in close to 30 years, so by boosting it to $250,000, they feel like they can help restore some confidence in the system for everybody.

BLOCK: And, Scott Horsley, it wasn't long after that that we heard much the same idea coming from John McCain.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Yeah, it's remarkable, Melissa. These two very different candidates arriving at the same place, the idea of being on the one hand to provide some additional protection for depositors and make the measure a little bit more popular with voters, and perhaps sway some reluctant lawmakers in the House. Senator McCain took turns today chastising House lawmakers for failing to show leadership during this difficult economic time, and then in almost the same breath, pleading for a bipartisan buy-in going forward.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): I know that many of the solutions to this problem may be unpopular, but the dire consequences of inaction will be far more damaging to the economic security of American families and the fault will all be ours.

BLOCK: So that's John McCain. And, Don Gonyea, also a similar message today from Barack Obama.

GONYEA: Well, you know, he talked about why this matters to Main Street and about how outrage is certainly being felt, maybe justifiably, anger at Wall Street that everybody is going down this road together in this country. And you know how Obama is often accused of using language that's too lofty, too professorial? Well, listen to this passage laying out what this means for the middle class, even if what's going on isn't their fault. Give a listen.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): Think about it. If your neighbor's house is burning, you're not going to spend a whole lot of time saying, well, that guy was always irresponsible. He always left the stove on. He always was smoking in bed. All those things may be true, but his house could end up affecting your house. And that's the situation we're in right now. We've got to make sure that we put the fire out and then we'll start making sure that these folks stop leaving the stove on.

GONYEA: And if I might just add quick thing, this speech was mostly about the financial crisis today. It looked like a rally, 12,000 people, but Senator Obama did not once mention the name John McCain.

BLOCK: Scott Horsley, let's turn back to you. The message from congressional Democrats is that it was Republicans who defeated this bailout bill in the House. What is John McCain doing to try to get his colleagues back on board?

HORSLEY: That's right, Melissa. You know, two-thirds of House Republicans voted against this measure even though it had the strong support of the Republican president and the Republican standard-bearer. John McCain is trying hard to get more Republicans to come in line and support the rescue package. At the same time, he's saying there are things the administration can do on its own, with the stroke of a pen, he said. For example, the Treasury Department already has authority to buy up mortgage backed securities, to take steps to protect money market accounts, and Senator McCain urged the Treasury to use those powers creatively.

BLOCK: OK, we've been talking with NPR's Scott Horsley in Des Moines, Iowa and Don Gonyea in Reno, Nevada. Thanks to you both.

GONYEA: It's a pleasure.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you.

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