An historic White House meeting with President Bush, both presidential candidates, and other congressional leaders ended with no clear resolution on an economic rescue plan to stave off a crisis in the nation's economy.
The meeting came after days of hearings and behind-the-scenes wrangling in Congress threatened to kill a $700 billion bailout plan for the financial industry. President Bush expressed his hope today that a plan would be passed by Congress "quickly."
Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill earlier reported an agreement was reached in principle Thursday on the plan. They said would present it to the Bush administration in hopes of a vote within days.
But many conservatives were still balking at the astonishing price tag of the proposal and the heavy hand of government that it would place on private markets.
Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, emerged from the White House meeting to say the announced agreement "is obviously no agreement."
Bush: It's Now or Never
President Bush warned, Wednesday, that if a financial bailout is not approved now, the American people would regret the decision later.
In his 12-minute prime-time speech to the nation, Bush assured that his rescue plan would not go to waste. But failing to act now, he said, would result in a "long and painful recession."
"Without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic and a distressing scenario would unfold," he argued.
The Bush administration presented the $700 billion plan to Congress last week, and it has since drawn criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
GOP Sen. Jim Bunning described the plan as "massive" and "not a solution" to America's current economic problem. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd said the rescue was "not acceptable."
Still, Bush pressed for the support of American's, Wednesday night, recommending that the bill be "enacted as soon as possible."
"It is difficult to pass a bill that commits so much of the American taxpayer's money," he said. "But given the circumstances, not passing a bill now would cost these people much more later."
Bush added that he is working with Congress to address the root cause behind America's unstable markets.
He explained that the billion dollar plan is not aimed at preserving a specific industry or company, but rather the "overall economy."
Bush Summons Obama, McCain
Bush will meet with presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama, Thursday, at the White House to talk more about what's needed for the economy. Key congressional leaders will also be in attendance.
McCain and Obama issued a joint statement, Wednesday night, urging Washington to come together on a decision.
"Now is a time to come together Democrats and Republicans in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of the American people," the statement said. "The plan that has been submitted to Congress by the Bush administration is flawed, but the effort to protect the American economy must not fail."
McCain has temporarily suspended his campaign and wants Friday's first presidential debate be postponed.
"All we must do to achieve this is temporarily set politics aside. We are running out of time," he said.
But while Obama agrees immediate action is needed, he says the debate should go on as planned.
"I see no reason why we can't be constructive in helping to solve this problem," Obama said. "Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time."
The President, for his part, is hoping the meeting sends a signal to Wall Street and markets around the world that America's financial system will get back on track.