Obama, McCain speed bailout vote on Hill

WASHINGTON -- Leaving behind a campaign trail lined with cheering voters, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain returned to a somber capital Wednesday to help move an economic recovery plan through Congress.

Both men arrived in the Senate chamber two days after the House rejected the $700 billion bailout proposal in a historic vote that sent markets tumbling around the world and prompted renewed calls for action.

Congressional leaders, touting a sense of momentum buoyed by McCain and Obama, said they hope a revised bill approved by the Senate will receive House support in a vote expected Friday, but some rank-and-file members remained skeptical.

Obama returned to the sedate Senate chamber Wednesday evening. Senators began to fill their seats as the junior senator from Illinois started speaking.

"All of us have the responsibility to solve this crisis because it affects the financial well-being of every American," Obama said. "We're in a very dangerous situation. … Millions of jobs could be lost."

McCain arrived in Washington about an hour later, and entered the Senate chamber as members gathered to vote on an unrelated bill. Before considering the bailout, the Senate overturned a three-decade ban on nuclear trade with India and approved a rail safety reform bill that requires technology that can stop a train headed for collision.

Minutes after McCain arrived, Obama walked over to the Republican, who was chatting with Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. Obama extended his hand to McCain, who shook it, uttered a greeting and refocused on Lieberman.

Since Monday's vote, McCain had called to lobby House Republicans who voted against the bill.

One of those members, Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., said he is now leaning in favor of the bill.

"We are square in the greatest financial crisis of our lifetimes," McCain said at an earlier campaign stop in Missouri. "With the unity that this crisis demands, Congress will once again work to restore confidence and stability to the American economy."

In contrast with last week, when lawmakers recounted the deluge of opposition calls from constituents, senators Wednesday told stories of business owners unable to borrow money.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he heard from a car salesman in Las Vegas who is unable to expand his inventory because he can't get a loan. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., warned that "Main Street is at severe distress here and at severe risk."

A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll found 77% of Americans want Congress to act. Forty percent approve of the way Democratic leaders have handled the issue and 43% disapprove; 38% approve of the GOP leadership's role and 45% disapprove.

Just more than half of the respondents, 51%, said they approve of the way Obama has handled his role in the crisis.

Forty-two percent approve of McCain's handling of his role. The Arizona senator briefly suspended his campaign last week to work on a deal between the White House and Congress.

The poll of 1,021 adults Tuesday has a margin of error of +/—3 percentage points.

After the Senate vote, Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., addressed reporters together. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said: "This vote tonight, I think, was the turning point."

The revised Senate bill includes a provision to raise the $100,000 cap on federally insured bank deposits to $250,000.

The Senate also added a number of unrelated provisions to attract House votes, including a one-year fix to prevent the alternative minimum tax from hitting an estimated 24 million families with a tax increase. Other additions: about $15 billion in tax breaks for alternative energy over 10 years and two-year extensions of other tax breaks, which cost about $42 billion.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the tax provisions would add $107 billion to projected budget deficits over 10 years. That could bring resistance from centrist and conservative Democrats who want the tax provisions to be paid for.

The bill also includes narrowly tailored tax breaks for film production, racetracks, Virgin Islands rum manufacturers and fishermen affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

"I expect that the tax provisions will increase the appeal of the package for our members," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he was disappointed by the new provisions but said he would push the measure to the floor this week. "Passing this bill soon is better than passing it later," he said.

It was unclear how many House members were being swayed by the new bill. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said he is among those not convinced.

"I think it's a risky bet," he said.

Contributing: Kathy Kiely, Sue Kirchhoff, David Jackson and the Associated Press