A Democrat tells ABC News that, in a phone call late this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that it would NOT be helpful for him to come back to Washington, D.C., to work on the Wall Street bailout bill.
McCain this afternoon suspended his campaign and said he would skip the first presidential debate in order to return to Capitol Hill to work on the log-jammed Bush administration legislation, which, as of Wednesday afternoon, was in peril.
McCain had phoned Reid to ask about the prospects of him, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and others to sit down and work together on hammering out a bipartisan proposal.
"Sorry," Reid said to him, a Democrat close to Reid says.
Reid then read McCain the statement he had just put out: "This is a critical time for our country," says the Reid statement. "While I appreciate that both candidates have signaled their willingness to help, Congress and the administration have a process in place to reach a solution to this unprecedented financial crisis. I understand that the candidates are putting together a joint statement at Sen. Obama’s suggestion. But it would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation’s economy. If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership; not a campaign photo op. If there were ever a time for both candidates to hold a debate before the American people about this serious challenge, it is now.”
A source close to Reid said McCain didn't have much to say after that. Reid, the source says, thinks McCain's maneuver is a gimmick born from bad poll numbers and the fact that "debate prep must not be going very well."
UPDATE: McCain senior adviser Mark Salter emails: "Yesterday, Harry Reid said that consensus couldn't be achieved without John McCain's leadership. John stepped up and is providing that leadership. Now Senator Reid seems to have changed his mind for reasons we'll let him explain. But what he should understand is that this isn't about Harry Reid or John McCain or Barack Obama. It's about the American people and, in the words of Warren Buffet, the financial Pearl Harbor they're facing. John's committed to doing his part to help avert that calamity. We hope Senator Reid is too."