RENO, Nev.— Barack Obama on Tuesday stepped up his advocacy for the Bush Administration’s endangered $700 billion bailout plan by making a round of calls to rank-and-file Democrats in the House and casting congressional inaction in dire, real-world terms. He also massaged his pitch, no longer using the word “bailout” to describe the bill.
In a speech laden with warnings about the impact on average voters, Obama made his strongest push yet for the financial package rejected Monday by the House, saying the upheaval was “no longer just a Wall Street crisis – it’s an American crisis, and it’s the American economy that needs this rescue plan.”
“While there is plenty of blame to go around and many in Washington and on Wall Street who deserve it, all of us now have a responsibility to solve this crisis, because it affects the financial well-being of every single American,” Obama said at a rally here. “There will be time to punish those who set this fire, but now is the moment for us to come together and put the fire out.”
Obama reached out to individual House members Tuesday, signaling that the Democratic nominee was taking a deeper role in the process. The campaign would not disclose names, but said he was coordinating his efforts with the congressional leadership.
“He is urging members to take another look at it,” spokeswoman Linda Douglass said.
For more than a week, Obama has directed his comments on the plan to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and congressional leaders, while John McCain involved himself directly in House talks.
But after the House defeated the bill with Democratic help, including a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus, the pressure began rising for Obama to make more direct appeals to his party.
Obama, who spoke Tuesday morning with President Bush, also proposed raising the federal insurance limit to $250,000 to aid small businesses – a suggestion that House Minority Leader John Boehner later said was “welcome news,” given that Democrats initially rejected the idea.
In a speech here, which drew the loudest applause when Obama called the crisis an “outrage,” Obama urged Democrats and Republicans to work together and “act now.”
“We cannot risk another week or another month where American businesses are afraid to extend credit and lend money,” Obama said. “That has an impact on housing here in Nevada. That has an impact on a small business owner who has got to make payroll, and if he can’t make payroll on Friday, he may lay you off on Monday. If he lays you off on Monday, then that means you may not be able to make your payments to somebody that you just bought something from. It ripples throughout the economy.”
Obama said the plan must treat taxpayers like investors, allowing them to recoup the bailout funds once the economy recovers.