In a stunning move, Republican Senator John McCain announced Wednesday afternoon (September 24) that he is suspending his campaign to focus on the troubled economy. He also asked that Friday's first presidential debate be postponed so that he and Democratic rival Senator Barack Obama can return to Washington and help hammer out a relief bill to deal with what he called the "historic" crisis facing the slumping U.S. economy. McCain also called on Obama to suspend his campaign and agree to delay the debate so that both of them can get back to Congress and work on the bill.
"If we do not act, every corner of our country will be impacted," a somber McCain warned. "We cannot allow this to happen."
McCain said he met with a group of economic advisers on Wednesday morning to discuss the steps that need to be taken to deal with the crisis and the $700 billion proposal currently on the table.
"I am calling on the president to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself," McCain told reporters while in New York, where he and running mate Sarah Palin were meeting with world leaders at the United Nations. "It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem." The White House said in a statement that it appreciates McCain's suggestion.
"It's time for both parties to come together to solve this problem," McCain said. "We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats and Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved." According to Fox News, McCain has also suspended the airing of all campaign ads as he works on the crisis.
According to CNN, the surprise move by McCain came just hours after the Obama campaign reached out to McCain's camp Wednesday morning to suggest that the candidates release a joint statement on the principles they think are important to incorporate in any bailout bill. The statement would also stress that it is important for Congress to work together on this bill. At 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, McCain returned the call and agreed to work together on some language for a joint statement. That statement was expected by the end of the day, along with comments from Obama on the McCain's suspension and the bailout bill.
Sources reportedly told CNN that Obama would not be suspending his campaign and saw no reason to cancel Friday's debate. At press time, the Obama camp had not yet issued a statement.
Congress and the Bush administration are in the middle of intense negotiations on the details of a potentially $700 billion economic recovery bill that would help bail out the troubled mortgage and lending markets. While many Democrats in Congress have expressed support for such a bill — though they are adamantly asking for strong oversight on it and provisions that would include limits on executive compensation — Bush has faced unusually strong pushback from conservative Republicans on the measure, some of whom have likened the effort to government-sanctioned socialism. President Bush has scheduled a prime-time address for Wednesday night to discuss the economic crisis.
McCain said after that meeting with members of Congress, "it has become clear that no consensus has developed to support the administration's proposal. I do not believe the proposal on the table would pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time."