McCain suspends campaign to work on Wall Street plan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Wednesday he will break off from campaigning to help on a Wall Street rescue plan and asked that a Friday debate with Democrat Barack Obama be postponed.

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) makes a statement in New York September 24, 2008, announcing he is suspending his campaign because of the economic crisis in the United States. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

McCain, in a statement to reporters, said he would suspend his campaign on Thursday to return to Washington.

He added he did not believe the Bush administration’s proposed legislation on a $700 billion bailout plan for the financial industry would pass the U.S. Congress in its current form.

McCain, an Arizona senator, called on Obama to join him in working together on a plan and said he had spoken to the Democrat about doing so. He said a consensus agreement on a bailout plan is needed by the time the financial markets open on Monday.

Obama, an Illinois senator, planned to make a statement on the issue shortly.

“It’s time for both parties to come together to solve this problem,” McCain said. “We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved.”

The Bush administration is pushing the plan hard in Congress. The White House welcomed McCain’s announcement.

Dana Perino said, “We are making progress in negotiations on the financial markets rescue legislation, but we have not finished it yet.”

McCain’s dramatic move, aimed at projecting leadership during the greatest U.S. financial crisis since the Great Depression, came at a time when Americans have been telling pollsters they believed Obama could handle the economy better than McCain.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Obama had called McCain on Wednesday morning to ask if he would join him in issuing a joint statement aimed at taking a bipartisan approach to the endangered $700 billion bailout.

The aim, said Burton, would be to act in a bipartisan manner to pass a proposal.

“At 2:30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator Obama’s call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement. The two campaigns are currently working together on the details,” Burton said.

McCain urged President George W. Bush to call for a bipartisan meeting of congressional leaders, including him and Obama, to try to find an agreement.

The debate scheduled on Friday in Oxford, Mississippi, is supposed to be the first of three face-to-face sessions between McCain and Obama, who face off in the presidential election on November 4.

“I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the Commission on Presidential Debates to delay Friday night’s debate until we have taken action to address this crisis,” McCain said.

McCain said it was essential to pass legislation to deal with what he called a “historic crisis.”

“If we do not, credit will dry up, with devastating consequences for our economy. People will no longer be able to buy homes and their life savings will be at stake,” he said.

McCain senior adviser Mark Salter said the campaign suspension would include pulling McCain’s television ads. (Additional reporting by Deborah Charles, Editing by Frances Kerry)