Sept. 25, 2008 -- Presidential rivals John McCain and Barack Obama expressed confidence tonight that agreement on a $700 billion financial bailout plan is imminent, despite growing concerns that the package could fall through.
Sens. Obama and McCain met with President Bush and top congressional leaders in an emergency meeting earlier today to address the financial crisis, but did not emerge with a final agreement. ABC News' George Stephanopoulos reported that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson feared the deal may collapse.
In an interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson, McCain, the GOP candidate from Arizona, repeatedly said he was "confident" that Congress and the president will come to an agreement on legislation soon.
"I am confident we'll have an agreement. We have to," McCain told Gibson.
Obama, the Democratic candidate from Illinois, told Gibson that there was a sense in Congress "that we could move forward," but suggested that House Republicans were holding up an agreement on the legislation, and urged quick action.
"The House Republicans stated that they recognized the urgency but they are just not clear that they buy this approach," Obama told Gibson. "So, the question I asked was, do we need to start from scratch or are there ways to incorporate some of their concerns?"
At today's emergency meeting, the Senate Banking Committee outlined four major categories of concern to be addressed in relief package: funding, taxpayer protection, oversight and struggling homeowners.
McCain said there were lingering concerns among members in his party about provisions that called for modifying mortgages for homeowners at risk of foreclosure, but added that other concerns "had already been satisfied."
He assured Americans that his colleagues understand the gravity of the crisis, but agreed that their hesitation about the bill was "legitimate."
"Members are aware of the crisis situation that we're in," McCain said. "They do have concerns, which, I think, when you're talking about $700 billion or a trillion dollars, that need to be addressed so that this is a genuine bipartisan, bicameral agreement."
Obama stressed the need to avoid partisan politics for the sake of the American people.
"I also think it's important for us to push politics out of this ... for the reason that, if we don't deal with the problem soon, then we are putting people's money market accounts, we're putting people's homes, we're putting people's jobs, all in a precarious situation," Obama told Gibson. "And there are times when we need to not worry about who's to blame, or who gets credit, but simply move something forward."
Candidates on the Presidential Debate
McCain made waves when he announced Wednesday that he would "suspend" his presidential campaign and suggested delaying the first presidential debate, which is scheduled to take place in Mississippi Friday, to deal with the financial crisis. Aides to McCain have said that he not attend the debate unless a deal had been put in place, ABC News' George Stephanopoulos reported.
But McCain told Gibson that he thought he might be able to attend the debate.
"I believe it's very possible we can get an agreement in time for me to fly to Mississippi," McCain told Gibson. "But I also wish that Sen. Obama agreed to the 10 or more town hall meetings that I had asked him to attend with me. Wouldn't be quite that much urgency surrounding these debates if he had agreed to do that -- instead, he refused."
Obama said that he hoped McCain would come to the debate and said it was important that both candidates address the concerns of the American people at that forum.
"Either John McCain or I are going to be in charge of this mess in four months and I think that it is critical for the American people, in a time where they've got enormous questions to ask, what exactly you think needs to happen, what is your long-term vision on critical issues. ... So, there are a host of issues that I think need to be presented to the American people. I think that the debates can do that, my hope is that it goes forward."