Sept. 24, 2008 -- President Bush will speak to the nation tonight in a primetime television address designed to shore up public support for the administration's stunning request to Congress to approve its $700 billion bailout plan.
"Everyone will tune in tonight because we are facing a once in a century crisis in our financial markets," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.
ABC News will air President Bush's address to the nation tonight LIVE at 9:00p.m.ET.
With his speech tonight, the president is hoping to secure the votes he needs on Capitol Hill for the bailout.
A senior White House official told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that Bush believes the case has to be made that this is about "Main Street not Wall Street."
Bush is expected tonight to make clear that the "costs of not acting are far greater than the costs of acting," Stephanopoulos reports.
In his 12-14 minute speech from the state floor of the White House, Bush is expected to strike a nonpartisan tone, reaching out to both Democrats and Republicans.
By the time the president speaks, the White House hopes to have a package that is ready -- or about ready -- for a vote, an administration official told Stephanopoulos.
However, the White House is not convinced it has the votes it needs to pass the $700 billion bailout on Capitol Hill, Stephanopoulos said.
Highlighting the stakes of Bush's speech tonight, 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.
Administration Urges Congress to Pass Bailout Quickly
For the second day in a row, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke went to Capitol Hill to make the administration's case for why Congress must pass the bailout plan.
"We have proposed a program to remove troubled assets from the system -- a program we analyzed internally for months, and had hoped would never be necessary," Paulson told the House Committee on Financial Services.
"Under our proposal, we would use market mechanisms available to small banks, credit unions, and thrifts, across the country not just big banks," Paulson said.
Both men have insisted that Congress must approve the plan quickly, but mindful of the hostility they encountered in the Senate Tuesday, Bernanke suggested that the mortgage-backed securities bought with taxpayer money will likely gain some of their value back.
"$700 billion is an extraordinary amount of money, but it is not an expenditure. It is an acquisition of assets." Bernanke said, arguing even though the assets are currently considered toxic, they will gain value as the economy recovers.
"If if there is a loss it will be far less, some percentage of that," he said.
Bernanke stressed the perilous situation of the nation's economy, which is facing the biggest financial turmoil since the Great Depression.
"Stabilization of our financial system is an essential precondition for economic recovery," he said.
Bailout Plan Timeline Met With Bipartisan Outrage
Democratic and Republican lawmakers are incredulous that the administration wants them to sign off on a risky plan that amounts to the cost of two Iraq wars with less than a week of debate.
"I do believe we must act and we must act soon. But let us be clear, Americans are furious," said Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York during the hearing.
"We want to move expeditiously. We don't want to move overnight. This notion that we would move today or tomorrow is ridiculous," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas.
"I think President Bush was right when he told people down in Houston recently that Wall Street got drunk and they had a hangover," Doggett said. "The problem is the people being asked to buy the broken furniture didn't get invited to the party."
Lawmakers: Why $700 Billion?
Schumer asked why $700 billion has been determined to be the amount that would solve the problem.
"Can you explain why $700 billion is needed now?" Schumer said, asking why the money can't be doled out in stages to see whether the plan works.
"Why wouldn't $150 billion now be enough to convince the markets that Congress and the government is serious about this?" Schumer asked.
Other lawmakers expressed dismay, but signaled they would vote for the plan.
"This is not the time to posture in pursuit of political gain," said Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas. "Inaction is not an option, and we have to get this right."
Other lawmakers, including leading Republicans on Capitol Hill, remain unconvinced of the plan.
Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, said in an interview that he's likely to vote against the plan, according to The Wall Street Journal.
"I've never supported a direct bailout. I voted against Chrysler when I was a freshman congressman," Shelby said referring to the government's bailout of the automaker in 1979.
Bailout Plan Far From Done Deal on Capitol Hill
The markets have been a roller coaster in recent days, first zooming higher and then pulling back Monday when traders became concerned that the bailout would be too expensive and possibly not solve the crisis. Wall Street remained flat early today.
To assure the markets, administration officials are pressing Congress to pass the massive bailout package passed by this weekend.
However, Democratic and Republican lawmakers told ABC News it's far from a done deal.
"There is still a lot of negotiating going on right now," ABC's George Stephanopoulos told "Good Morning America" today.
"Top officials tell me in Congress that 'It's not soup yet.' There is no deal yet," he said.
Stephanopoulos said lawmakers are pushing to "improve" the bailout plan to include provisions that would constrain executive compensation, something to give taxpayers equity in the deal and something to help homeowners facing foreclosure.
Schumer told CNN today that Senate Democrats have "proposed some kind of FDIC for all financial services companies. They would pay a fee every month and that would go into helping pay for this plan. It won't pay for all of it."
The FDIC is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which insure bank deposits.
McCain Holds Key to Bailout on Capitol Hill
Obama and McCain face a key test this week on how they handle the administration's bailout plan.
Both presidential candidates agree that the administration's plan should include caps on executive compensation, or golden parachutes.
But it is McCain who may ultimately hold the fate of the massive bailout plan in his hands.
"The big factor may be John McCain. I was talking to top Republicans and Democrats yesterday, they both say that if John McCain doesn't vote for this package, it is going to go down," George Stephanopoulos said on "GMA" Wednesday.
"McCain aides say he hasn't made up his mind yet. He's laid out his own conditions as well, but they want him to be seen and he wants to be seen as a champion of the little guy," Stephanopoulos said.
"The Democrats say they're not going to give John McCain a free chance to break away from President Bush," Stephanopoulos said. "The Republican members of Congress say that if he votes 'no' that they're not going to be at odds with him."
"He is facing a huge choice, a huge gamble also for McCain," he said.
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, Ann Compton, Z. Byron Wolf, Dee Carden, Daniel Arnall, and the ABC News business unit contributed to this report.