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Obama Backs Bailout, Urges Accountability

Democrat Barack Obama promised Wednesday that if he is elected president "American taxpayers will never again have to put their money on the line to pay for the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street."

The Illinois senator said increased accountability for Wall Street and Washington must go along with the proposed $700 billion financial industry bailout bill he plans to support on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

"When I am president, financial institutions will do their part and pay their share, and American taxpayers will never again have to put their money on the line to pay for the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street," Obama told 15,000 supporters gathered in downtown La Crosse. "That's a pledge that I'll make to you today, and it's one that I'll keep as president of the United States."

Campaigning in a key swing state that Democrat John Kerry won by only 11,000 votes in 2004, Obama also criticized Washington lobbyists.

The days of "sweetheart deals for Halliburton" and "an era in Washington where accountability has been absent, oversight has been overlooked, and your tax dollars have been turned over to wealthy CEOs" will end, Obama said, without explicitly mentioning that Halliburton was run by Dick Cheney before he became vice president.

"You need leadership that you can trust to work for you not for the special interests who have had their thumb on the scale," Obama said. "And together, we will tell the Washington lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda are over. They have not funded my campaign, you have. They will not run my White House, you'll help me run my White House. They won't drown out the voices of the American people when I'm president."

Asserting that the pending rescue bill is not a cure-all, Obama said he's proposed a "financial stability fee" on the financial services industry "so Wall Street foots the bill not the American taxpayer" in case of losses. He also vowed his administration would "create new rules of the road to prevent another crisis."

Obama, his running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden, and GOP presidential candidate John McCain headed off the campaign trail Wednesday afternoon to return to the Senate to vote on the financial rescue legislation.

The House rejected the Wall Street bailout plan on Monday, but the Senate added a number of sweeteners designed to please recalcitrant lawmakers, including an increase in Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. protection for bank accounts from $100,000 to $250,000.

The hike in deposit insurance was endorsed by both Obama and McCain on Tuesday.

Obama, who spent the last day calling rank-and-file Democrats rallying support for the legislation, publicly called for Congress to quickly pass the legislation "to prevent a crisis from turning into a catastrophe."

"That's why I've been reaching out to leaders in both parties to do whatever I can to help pass this plan," Obama said. "That's why I'll be flying back to Washington today to cast my vote to safeguard the American economy. And to the Democrats and Republicans who have opposed this plan, I say step up to the plate and do what's right for the country, even if it's not popular, because the time to act is now."

Obama also stepped up his criticisms of Republicans, one day after not mentioning McCain at all in a Nevada campaign. Obama noted that Democrat Bill Clinton left a surplus for President Bush which will not exist for the next president.

And his campaign released a new 30-second TV ad, called "Spending Spree," to air in key states, that said McCain's overall tax plan, his proposal to privatize Social Security and to give tax credits to insurance companies would add more than $5 trillion to the debt. "Can we afford John McCain?" the ad asks.

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds criticized Obama for engaging in partisan attacks "as Americans teeter on the edge of an economic crisis."

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