ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos and Rick Klein report: Sen. John McCain on Wednesday said he would “suspend” his presidential campaign to come to Washington to help negotiate a financial bailout bill, a dramatic move designed to seize a powerful issue.
McCain called on the Commission on Presidential Debates to postpone the debate scheduled for Friday in Mississippi, to ensure quick congressional action.
“I have spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision and have asked him to join me,” McCain planned to say in New York City, according to advance excerpts released by his campaign. “I am calling on the president to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem.”
However a senior Obama campaign official said Obama "intends to debate."
"The debate is on," a senior Obama campaign official told ABC News.
Obama supporter and chief debate negotiator Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., told MSNBC that "we can handle both," when asked about his reaction to McCain's call to postpone the first debate because of the administration's bailout plan.
He believes they are making good progress on Capitol Hill on the bailout and his initial reaction is that the work on the Hill should not preclude the debate from taking place.
An Obama campaign official told ABC News the Democratic presidential candidate called McCain this morning to suggest a joint statement of principles.
McCain called back this afternoon and suggested returning to Washington.
Obama is willing to return to Washington "if it would be helpful." But reiterated Obama intends to debate on Friday.
McCain and his top advisers said the Republican presidential candidate has not committed to voting for the massive financial bailout plan proposed by the Bush administration, with aides saying he will reserve final judgment until there is a final product.
A senior McCain campaign official said that the “Bush package is dead. This is a serious situation. Package must be resolved by the time markets open on Monday."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that McCain had assured Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that he would support the $700 billion legislation.
Asked about that Wednesday, McCain responded: “I did not say that.”
Senior advisor Mark Salter then interjected saying, “He hasn’t said that to Paulson or to Reid or to anybody else. He hasn’t said that to me.”
McCain campaign political director Mike DuHaime told reporters at a lunch meeting in Washington that the senator will not commit until he sees the final package that comes to the Senate floor.
“He’s going to do what he thinks is right,” DuHaime said at a lunch sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “He’ll make a vote as a leader in this country, and people will look to him.”
DuHaime added, “Quite frankly, I think you could ask Sen. Obama if he’s going to do what he thinks is right. I mean, he has never -- I believe -- never once made a decision that is an unpopular decision or went against the orthodoxy of his party, and was one that was one that was a tough decision to make. . . . Sen. McCain has done that throughout his entire career, his entire life -- not just in politics, but his life.”
DuHaime said that while McCain understands the urgency, many voters continue to have important questions about what the bailout means to them.
“When you start talking about $10,000 per household or per family to go toward bailing out Wall Street, they have legitimate questions about it,” DuHaime said. “People understand that that is a big thing and it affects them, and they do legitimately have questions about, is this really going to go to bail out companies or leaders of companies who now are relying on taxpayer dollars to bail them out, and are going to get these huge compensation packages after they come to the taxpayers for it.”
“There is some frustration, certainly, in that, and it’s understandable to say the least. And it has not been a quick rush to say yes or no. People understand the gravity of this, want to see it done right, while still understanding the timing factor.”
ABC News' Bret Hovell and Sunlen Miller contributed to this report.