Bush Says Act Now, Assign the Blame Later

Posted September 19, 2008 at 11:01am

President Bush on Friday outlined a series of steps developed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and others to stem the burgeoning financial crisis, calling on Congress to quickly pass needed authority to implement the plan — and to leave the finger-pointing for later.

Bush, who appeared in the Rose Garden along with Bernanke, Paulson and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox, said such a grave moment demanded bipartisanship.

“This is no time for partisanship,” Bush said. “We must act now.”

The president demanded Congress approve legislation quickly and without add-ons that could mire it in controversy. Bush wants lawmakers to provide the administration with authority to snap up troublesome loans held by banks to ease pressure on the system. The government is also providing new backing for mutual funds, and the SEC is putting a temporary stop to the short trading of financial stocks

“Government intervention is not only warranted, it is essential,” Bush said.

Without saying everything was OK, Bush tried to project a sense of assurance about the future. “In the long run, Americans have good reason to be confident in our economic strength,” he asserted. “We will weather this challenge, too, and we must do so together.”

The presidential candidates, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), were quick to broadcast their concern as well.

The Obama campaign announced that Obama was meeting with his top economic advisers this morning in Florida “to discuss his plan to stabilize the financial system and turn the economy around.” Leading the crew are former Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, former White House National Economic Council Gene Sperling and former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker.

In a statement, Obama indicated he was refraining from offering a detailed blueprint until after he and his advisers have reviewed the approach crafted by Paulson.

In remarks today, McCain slammed Obama for consulting with former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines and discussed his own plans for fixing the mess.

Paulson will meet with Congressional leaders over the weekend to flesh out a legislative package.

Paulson said Friday that it will include hundreds of billions of dollars because it must be big enough to “get at the heart of the problem.” Administration officials are asking Congress to take action on the package next week.

Meanwhile, GOP Congressional leaders announced Friday that they will not proceed with a planned floor protest over energy issues.

Instead, Republicans “will be fully engaged in discussions relating to the most pressing issue of the day: working on a bipartisan solution to steady the financial markets,” according to an e-mail alert from House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said Republican leaders planned to hold a teleconference with Paulson and Bernanke Friday and are focused on getting a bill signed into law immediately.

Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.