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An Appeal and a Blame Game

Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain are searching for the right way to navigate the most severe economic crisis in decades just five weeks before Election Day. The crisis could have dramatic consequences for both campaigns.
Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain are searching for the right way to navigate the most severe economic crisis in decades just five weeks before Election Day. The crisis could have dramatic consequences for both campaigns. (By Alex Brandon -- Associated Press)
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By Michael D. Shear and Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa, Sept. 29 -- Reacting to the House's defeat of a $700 billion economic rescue proposal Monday, Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain called on Congress to pass a new bill and then sought to blame each other for the deadlock on Capitol Hill.

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McCain found himself in a particularly awkward position after bragging about his role in building a coalition behind the rescue package yesterday morning -- hours before it was defeated.

In a curt statement after the measure was rejected and stocks plummeted, McCain said he had "worked hard to play a constructive role" in its passage and declared that "now is not the time to fix the blame."

But McCain and his top aides then accused Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress of orchestrating the bill's failure to embarrass McCain, even though many more House Republicans voted "no" than did Democrats.

"Senator Obama and his allies in Congress infused unnecessary partisanship into the process," McCain said in a statement to the media during a stop in Iowa. He took no questions.

His top domestic policy adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, later said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was to blame for giving an overly partisan speech just before the vote. "Today, when it became clear that he was coming close to having a victory, they killed it," Holtz-Eakin said.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said, "Today's inaction in Congress as well as the angry and hyper-partisan statement released by the McCain campaign are exactly why the American people are disgusted with Washington."

Yet, at a rally in Colorado, Obama highlighted his efforts to improve the plan and sought to link McCain to the economic crisis.

"I read the other day that Senator McCain likes to gamble. He likes to roll those dice. And that's okay. I enjoy a little friendly game of poker myself every now and then," Obama said. "But one thing I know is this -- we can't afford to gamble on four more years of the same disastrous economic policies we've had for the last eight."

Obama also urged lawmakers to quickly return to the table to stabilize the nation's economy. Like McCain, Obama had offered cautious support for the measure over the weekend.

"Democrats and Republicans in Washington have a responsibility to make sure an emergency rescue package is put forward that can at least stop the immediate problems that we have," Obama said. "One of the messages I have to Congress is -- get this done, Democrats. Republicans, step up to the plate."

The repercussions for the presidential campaign are uncertain and potentially dramatic as both candidates search for the right way to navigate the most severe economic crisis in decades just five weeks before Election Day.


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