"This entire proposal is about benefiting the American people," Paulson said, "because today's fragile financial system puts their economic well being at risk."
However, if calls to Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and other members of Congress are any indication, the American people may not yet be on board with the idea of a bailout, ABC News' Jake Tapper reported. Calls into DeMint's office before the speech were almost entirely negative.
"The administration is working on the other side, scaring people into doing something," said DeMint, who opposes the current plan. "I'm convinced this is a trillion-dollar Band-Aid to get us past the election."
"I do believe we must act and we must act soon," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "But let us be clear, Americans are furious."
In his speech, Bush acknowledged the difficult politics of a $700 billion bailout.
"I know that an economic rescue package will present a tough vote for many members of Congress," Bush said. "It is difficult to pass a bill that commits so much of the taxpayers' hard-earned money. I also understand the frustration of responsible Americans who pay their mortgages on time, file their tax returns every April 15, and are reluctant to pay the cost of excesses on Wall Street.
"But given the situation we are facing, not passing a bill now would cost these Americans much more later," Bush said.
Highlighting the stakes ahead of Bush's speech, a senior administration official told Stephanopoulos, "This is a bullet you only fire once."
Bush skipped a planned GOP fundraiser in Florida to return to the White House before noon to focus on the financial rescue package.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said from the Senate floor today before Bush's speech that it's about time Bush spoke on the bailout.
"This is not the Paulson plan," Reid said. "This is not the Bernanke plan. This is not the Congress plan. This is the Bush plan. It's time for him to take ownership and demonstrate leadership. He's our president, it's time for him to realize that the buck stops with him."
Officials on both sides of the political aisle said that the bailout plan, in its current form, is not moving toward approval.
Democrats have said they are concerned the plan needs to do less to reward Wall Street bigwigs and more to help ordinary Americans. Some Republicans say they are hesitant to accept such a huge government stake in the U.S. economy.
However, presidential nominees Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., this evening, issued a joint statement on the need for a bailout.
"The American people are facing a moment of economic crisis," the joint statement read. "No matter how this began, we all have a responsibility to work through it and restore confidence in our economy. The jobs, savings, and prosperity of the American people are at stake.
"Now is a time to come together -- Democrats and Republicans -- in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of the American people," McCain and Obama said. "The plan that has been submitted to Congress by the Bush administration is flawed, but the effort to protect the American economy must not fail. This is a time to rise above politics for the good of the country. We cannot risk an economic catastrophe. Now is our chance to come together to prove that Washington is once again capable of leading this country."