- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2008

President Bush will speak to the nation in primetime national television about the fiscal crisis Wednesday night, as his administration inched closer to a deal with Congress on a way forward.

In his speech, the president will explain the current economic crisis while encouraging Congress to move quickly on his administrations $700 billion rescue plan, the White House said.

“This is a huge moment for America,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, who confirmed that Mr. Bush will speak at 9 p.m. EDT for 12 to 14 minutes.

The president has chosen to speak now, Mrs. Perino said, because the Bush administration is close to an agreement on the rescue plan.

A compromise on one of the main impasses blocking an agreement was overcome, the Associated Press reported, when Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. agreed to limit pay packages for executives whose firms fail or benefit from the bailout.

The president cancelled a scheduled fundraiser in Florida to return to Washington and give a speech.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One en route from New York to Washington on Wednesday morning, Mrs. Perino said Congress should pass the administrations package quickly.

“If we don’t take decisive and bold action, we could be facing financial calamity.”

The White House has said since late last week that they want their plan passed through Congress by Friday.

Mrs. Perino also defended the president’s messaging over the last 10 days from criticism that he has not done enough to lead the nation.

“The American people have a lot of questions and concerns, and the president of the United States has been trying to answer them,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voiced those criticisms Wednesday in a statement on the Senate floor.

“Congress and especially the American people have a right to know this: where is President Bush?” Mr. Reid said.

“President Bush has sent Congress an unprecedented $700 billion bailout proposal, $700 billion straight from the pockets of every single man, woman and child in America. Yet President Bush has been absent from what may well be the most important debate on economic policy in a generation,” he said.

“Other than two brief statements to the press — and a press release admonishing the Congress to accept his bailout plan immediately — President Bush has been silent,” Mr. Reid said. “We must not forget: George Bush is still the President of the United States. It is time for him to address our country.”

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