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Bush, Aides Lobby for Bill

The White House on Thursday expressed guarded optimism that legislation designed to goose flagging financial markets will prevail when it hits the House floor again Friday.

White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said the White House is “fairly optimistic” the legislation would pass, pointing to “good things” President Bush and his aides are hearing as they troll Capitol Hill for votes.

The White House is waging an all-hands-on-deck lobbying effort for the bill with Bush heavily involved, lodging about three-dozen calls to lawmakers Wednesday and Thursday. Fratto said he had personally heard Bush speaking to Members who voted against the package Monday but who will support it Friday — whether because they changed their own minds or were convinced by the president.

In his calls, Bush is focusing mainly on the $700 billion being provided to buy up bad mortgages, and less so on various sweeteners that have been added to the measure since it failed Monday.

Fratto cited the precipitous drop in the market after Monday’s vote Members” who were not sure that a crisis was at hand. He also said support was growing because of better awareness of the difficulty some are having getting credit and as a result of add-ons to the legislation, including an increase in the size of deposits to be ensured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from $100,000 to $250,000.

Vice President Cheney has also been making calls. Others lobbying include White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, Deputy Chief of Staff Joel Kaplan, Office of Management and Budget Director Jim Nussle, National Economic Council Director Keith Hennessey, and the White House legislative affairs team led by Dan Myers.

Fratto defended the president’s willingness to accept earmarks included on the bill, arguing that the country is “facing a crisis,” and there is not time to negotiate the removal of special spending items.

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