WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush and the two men fighting to succeed him joined forces at a historic White House meeting Thursday, trying to sell resistant lawmakers on a multibillion-dollar bailout plan for Wall Street aimed at staving off what the president called "a serious economic crisis." Key members of Congress struck a deal earlier in the day but others were unwilling.
The tentative accord would give the Bush administration just a fraction of the $700 billion it had requested up front, with half the money subject to a congressional veto, Capitol Hill aides said. Even that was hardly final. Sen. Richard Shelby, top Republican on the Banking Committee, emerged from the White House meeting and said, "I don't believe we have an agreement."
Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, who have both sought to distance themselves from the unpopular Bush, sat down with the president at the White House for an hourlong afternoon session that was striking in this brutally partisan season and apparently without precedent. By also including Congress' Democratic and Republican leaders, the meeting gathered nearly all Washington's political power structure at one long table in a small West Wing room.
"All of us around the table ... know we've got to get something done as quickly as possible," Bush told reporters, brought in for only the start of the meeting. Obama and McCain were at distant ends of the oval table, not even in each other's sight lines. Bush, playing host in the middle, was flanked by Congress' two Democratic leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Wall Street showed its optimism. At the close, the Dow stayed above 11,000 with 11,022.06, up 196.89 points.