Key Democrats say they believe an agreement will be reached by Sunday on a massive bailout package the White House has put forward after the largest banking collapse in U.S. history.

The Bush administration had been hoping the deal would be done by Friday, but House Republicans - many of whom are up for re-election this fall - have been stalling on a compromise plan and ended those negotiations on Thursday.

House Republican plans want serious consideration of a plan of their own, with a lower price tag than the $700 billion originally proposed.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late Friday that progress was being made, though neither she nor Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank would reveal details of their discussions with Republicans.

"The legislative process is sometimes not very pretty," U.S. President George Bush said earlier Friday, as he called on Congress to end the squabbling.

"But we are going to get a package passed. We will rise to the occasion. Republicans and Democrats will come together and pass a substantial rescue plan."

Speaking outside the Oval Office, Bush acknowledged there are challenges that come with such a major proposal, and said the issue is further complicated by the speed at which the US$700 bailout has been pushed forward.

"The legislative process is sometimes not very pretty but we are going to get a package fast. We are going to get a package passed," Bush said.

Democrats were quick to blame Republican presidential candidate John McCain on derailing the bailout plan, which looked like a done deal Thursday afternoon.

"We don't need presidential politics in this. All he has done is stand in front of the cameras," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said of McCain.

McCain suspended his campaign on Wednesday to focus on the bailout and said he would not attend Friday's debate unless a deal was reached.

However, he did not arrive in Washington until Thursday and the deal broke down shortly after he attended a summit meeting at the White House.

On Friday, McCain decided he would attend the debate and left Capital Hill without a deal.

Republican lawmakers have so far rejected the massive proposal. House Minority leader John Boehner suggested that instead of the government buying the distressed securities, it would insure them.

Congressmen are listening to their constituents and the polls. In an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released Friday, only 30 per cent of Americans surveyed expressed support for Bush's package.

But some veteran stock market watchers say otherwise.

"Congress has to pass a bailout bill, if they don't come Monday, the markets could go to hell in a handbasket," Harvey Pitt, former security exchange commission chairman, said.

And as negotiations dragged on this week, another bank failed. Washington Mutual was seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Thursday and its assets were sold to JPMorgan Chase & Co. for $1.9 billion -- making it the largest bank in U.S. history to fail.

Bush hopes his bailout plan will stem the bleeding in the financial sector, and is hoping for a deal before markets open on Monday.