Accessibility links

Breaking News

McCain Agrees to Attend Debate as Bailout Talks Continue

Republican presidential nominee John McCain has reversed his earlier decision and decided to participate in Friday's long scheduled debate with Democrat candidate Barack Obama. McCain had said he would not attend the debate unless there was agreement on a controversial $700 billion plan to shore up the U.S. financial system, something U.S. lawmakers continue to struggling to achieve. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.

Senator John McCain announced Friday he will take part in Friday night's debate with fellow Senator Barack Obama at the University of Mississippi. Earlier in the week, McCain said he was suspending his presidential campaign and wanted to postpone the debate until a bailout agreement had been reached.

Both McCain and Obama stopped making campaign appearances and returned to Washington Thursday to meet with President Bush and other officials about the administration's proposed $700 billion rescue plan for the financial industry.

Before leaving for the debate site in Mississippi Friday, Obama repeated his view that he and McCain should debate as planned.

"My strong sense is that the best thing that I could do, rather than to inject presidential politics into some delicate negotiations, is to go down to Mississippi," he said.

Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday McCain was not contributing to a solution. "The insertion of presidential politics has not been helpful," he said. "All he has done is stand in front of the cameras. We still do not know where he stands on the issue."

Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell disagreed, saying both McCain and Obama helped the process along.

"Both presidential candidates coming back [to Washington] was actually helpful," he said. "It underscored the significance of moving forward and moving forward on a bipartisan basis and doing it quickly. So I think Senator McCain's role has been entirely constructive."

Top Republican and Democratic lawmakers continued meeting with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and other administration officials Friday, to try to work out an economic rescue plan.

U.S. President George Bush urged lawmakers Friday to rise to the occasion and reach agreement soon. "There are disagreements over aspects of the rescue plan," he said. "But there is no disagreement that something substantial must be done. The legislative process is sometimes not very pretty, but we are going to get a package passed."

Much of the opposition to the proposal has come from within President Bush's own party. Republicans in the House of Representatives are demanding "serious consideration" of a proposal which would sharply limit government assistance to financial institutions that are in trouble because of bad loans they made.

House Republican Minority Leader John Boehner said Friday he is being bullied by the White House. "I do not know what games were being played at the White House yesterday, ganging up on Boehner, but if they thought they were rolling me, they were kidding themselves," he said.

Boehner says he and fellow House Republicans are protecting the taxpayers' best interests. "There are a lot of proposals out there that will work," he said. "What we have got to do is to do our best on behalf of taxpayers."

Public opinion polls show that the president's economic rescue plan is not popular. Only 30 percent of Americans polled say they support the bailout package. Another 45 percent oppose the plan, and 25 percent are unsure about it.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate said publicly Friday they will work together to find an acceptable solution quickly.

The latest news from the U.S. economy highlights the urgency of the situation. The Commerce Department reported Friday that the U.S. gross domestic product increased at a 2.8 percent annual rate from April to June, less than the 3.3 percent growth estimate made one month ago.

Also, Thursday saw the largest single bank failure in U.S. history. Washington Mutual collapsed, and its $307 billion in assets were sold to JP Morgan Chase for $1.9 billion.