On Senate Floor, Obama Calls For Bailout's Passage

Sen. Barack Obama i i

Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters at a rally Wednesday in La Crosse, Wis. Obama's speech concentrated on the economy and the continued turmoil on Wall Street. Darren Hauck/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Darren Hauck/Getty Images
Sen. Barack Obama

Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters at a rally Wednesday in La Crosse, Wis. Obama's speech concentrated on the economy and the continued turmoil on Wall Street.

Darren Hauck/Getty Images

Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain are back in Washington, D.C., where they are expected to cast ballots in support of the financial bailout legislation when the Senate votes Wednesday night.

Obama flew from La Crosse, Wis., where he held a morning campaign rally, and landed in Washington just before 4 p.m. An hour and a half later, he was on the floor of the U.S. Senate, arguing in favor of passing the $700 billion package designed to rescue the financial sector and avert an even more dire situation for the nation's economy. Obama said the package is not perfect and that he remains critical of what he calls the mismanagement of the economy, but he said action now is crucial.

"It's clear that from my perspective this is what we have to do right now to prevent the possibility of a crisis turning into a catastrophe," the Illinois Democrat said.

Obama said he understands that many of his colleagues in Congress — Democrats and Republicans — have problems with the plan, but he urged them to step up and support it or risk the nation's sliding into a deep and painful recession.

He pointed to safeguards in the package and said it is not a welfare plan for CEOs. Taxpayers become investors under the plan, Obama stressed, adding that he expects every dollar spent to come back to the American public once markets stabilize and regain strength. Obama acknowledged this will take time and that there are no guarantees.

As he wrapped up his 15-minute statement in the Senate, Obama invoked the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during a fireside chat.

"During the great financial crisis of the last century, in his first fireside chat, FDR told his fellow Americans that there is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people themselves," Obama said. "Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan."

Earlier in the day, Obama was campaigning is Wisconsin, where he said people are right to be outraged at how much this will cost taxpayers.

"But it is clear that this is what we must do right now to prevent a crisis from turning into a catastrophe," he said during a speech in the town of La Crosse. "That's why I've been reaching out to leaders in both parties to do whatever I can to help pass this plan."

Obama clearly affixes blame for the crisis on what he calls a philosophy of deregulation in Washington that took hold in the 1980s and has escalated under the Bush administration. He says it's no accident that the nation's economy got into such deep trouble.

"Make no mistake: We need to end an era in Washington where accountability has been absent, oversight has been overlooked and your tax dollars have been turned over to wealthy CEOs and well-connected corporations," he said. "You need leadership that you can trust to work for you — not for the special interests who have had their thumb on the scale."

Obama's speech in La Crosse had a populist feel. He said middle-class Americans will step up and rescue Wall Street because the entire economy and millions of jobs depend on it.

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