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In a vote that shook the government, Wall Street and markets around the world, the House on Monday defeated a $700 billion emergency rescue for the nation's financial system, leaving both parties and the Bush administration struggling to pick up the pieces. The Dow Jones industrials plunged nearly 800 points, the most ever for a single day.

"We need to put something back together that works," a grim-faced Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said after he and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke joined in an emergency strategy session at the White House. On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders said the House would reconvene Thursday in hopes of a quick vote on a reworked version.

All sides agreed the bill could not be abandoned.

On Monday, not enough lawmakers were willing to take the political risk -- just five weeks before the elections -- of backing a deeply unpopular measure that many voters see as an undeserved bailout for Wall Street.

The bill went down, 228-205, even though Paulson and congressional leaders proclaimed a day earlier that they had worked out an acceptable compromise in marathon weekend talks.

Lawmakers were caught in the middle. On one side were the dire predictions from Bush, his economic team, and their own party leaders of an all-out financial meltdown if they failed to approve the rescue. On the other side: a flood of protest calls and e-mails from voters threatening to punish them at the ballot box.

The House Web site was overwhelmed as millions of people sought information about the measure.

The legislation the administration promoted would have allowed the government to buy bad mortgages and other sour assets held by troubled banks and other financial institutions. Getting those debts off their books should bolster those companies' balance sheets, making them more inclined to lend and easing one of the biggest choke points in a national credit crisis. If the plan worked, the thinking went, it would help lift a major weight off the national economy, which is already sputtering.

Stocks started plummeting on Wall Street even before Monday's vote was over, as traders watched the rescue measure going down on television. Meanwhile, lawmakers were watching them back.

As a digital screen in the House chamber recorded a cascade of "no" votes against the bailout, Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley of New York shouted news of the falling Dow Jones industrials. "Six hundred points!" he yelled, jabbing his thumb downward.

The final stock carnage was 777 points, far surpassing the 684-point drop on the first trading day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.


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