Republicans trying to keep their House and Senate majorities in this fall's election hoped to take in at least $21.5 million Wednesday night at a fund-raiser headlined by President Bush.

Members of Congress played a key role in the fund raising. House committee chairmen were asked to raise at least $100,000 each, subcommittee chairmen $50,000 or more and rank-and-file members a minimum of $25,000, for example.

At least 6,500 people were expected at the $2,500-per-ticket dinner at the Washington Convention Center. Bush was to give the keynote speech.

Congressional Republicans raised $22 million at the annual event last year. That was several million less than the then-record $30 million they took in at their 2002 dinner, before a new law banned national party committees from accepting corporate, union and unlimited donations.

Now, they can accept up to $25,000 per year from individual donors and $20,000 a year from political action committees, which are financed by individuals. The Republican National Committee currently holds the record for the most raised at a single event under the new limits; it took in $38.5 million at a May gala featuring Bush.

The money raised Tuesday will go to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (search) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (search), with each keeping the amount its members raised.

In a mailing to potential donors, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search), R-Tenn., urged supporters who couldn't attend the dinner to give anyway.

"Your contribution will be of great assistance in helping us expand our narrow majorities in the United States Congress," Frist wrote.

House Republicans offered donors in town for the dinner an election briefing with Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman and meetings on topics such as "President Bush and a Republican Congress: The Pro-Business Agenda," and the tax policies of Bush and his Democratic challenger, John Kerry.