(CNN) – Democratic leadership reacted to John McCain’s Wednesday announcement that he wants to return to Capitol Hill to work on the economic bailout plan and postpone the first debate by saying “presidential politics” should stay out of the negotiations.
Democrats on the Hill told CNN’s Jessica Yellin that after days of negotiations, they are close to coming to a consensus. If McCain comes back to Washington in the final stretch, they said they fear the Republican nominee may take credit for the deal.
Related: Democrats call McCain move a "stunt"
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said with the economy in turmoil, now is the perfect time for the candidates to discuss the issues on the national stage.
“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,” Reid said in a statement. “If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership, not a campaign photo op.”
After his announcement, McCain called Reid to discuss his plans, and the Senate Majority Leader responded by reading his publicly issued statement. A spokesman for Reid called McCain’s decision “only an attempt to divert attention from his failed campaign."
He also called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who told him that Congress had been making progress on the bill.
The McCain camp blasted Reid's reaction. “While Senator McCain has suspended campaigning in order to return to Washington and lend his assistance to the negotiations now underway on Capitol Hill, Senator Reid has put out a statement informing McCain that his presence would ‘not be helpful,'" said McCain-Palin spokesman Brian Rogers. "In fact, this is quite a reversal from yesterday, when Senator Reid told reporters ‘We need the Republican nominee for president to let us know where he stands and what we should do.’
“Unfortunately, Senator Reid is putting partisan politics ahead of the business of the American people. But there should be no mistake: 24 hours ago Reid and his Democratic colleagues on the Hill couldn't have been more desperate for Senator McCain's help in resolving this crisis. Now they've got it.”
On the Senate floor, Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, called the debate “one of the most important events” and said that is has to go on to give voters the opportunity to measure the candidates. Durbin criticized McCain for saying the fundamentals of the economy were “strong,” but then dropping everything to work on negotiations a week later. He said McCain is coming back to Washington for politically-motivated reasons.
“With polls showing his campaign is at its weakest, Senator McCain's decision may have less to do with the drop in the Dow Jones average and more to do with a decline in the Gallup poll,” Durbin said in a statement.
House Minority Leader John Boehner praised McCain’s decision to head back to Washington and suspend his campaign, saying they all “must work together to find a solution.”
“I strongly support Sen. McCain’s proposal for a bipartisan leadership meeting of both Houses of Congress, including Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama,” the Republican congressman said in a statement. “Given that it is only a few months before a new President takes the oath of office, it is vital that the next President play an active role in crafting this critical plan.”
House Republican Whip Roy Blunt also sided with McCain, calling the Republican nominee a “guy who would rather be part of the solution than runaway from the fight.”
“Given the ramifications of what our nation is facing, it is incumbent on members of both parties to come together and find a bipartisan solution for the good of the country,” Blunt said in a statement. “I hope our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join us in this serious effort.”
But House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer said McCain “sounds like a man in a 100 yard race who is 50 yards out, 25 yards behind and wants to suspend the race.”