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By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer Comment on this story
WASHINGTON - Republican John McCain agreed to attend the first presidential debate Friday night even though Congress doesn't have a bailout deal, reversing an earlier decision to delay the forum until Washington had addressed the financial crisis.
With less than 10 hours until the debate was scheduled to start, the McCain campaign announced that the Arizona senator would travel to the University of Mississippi. The campaign said that afterward McCain would fly back to Washington to continue working on the economic crisis.
The campaign's statement said McCain is optimistic that there has been progress toward a bipartisan agreement. But earlier in the week, McCain said he would delay the debate "until we have taken action to address this crisis."
It was a different position than McCain had taken Wednesday, when he announced, "I'm 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."
"The time is now for House Republicans to come to the negotiating table and for presidential politics to leave the negotiating table," Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate leader, told reporters today.
"The insertion of presidential politics has not been helpful. It has been harmful."
Members of Congress are meeting behind closed doors today with an eye to crafting a financial pact that can attract votes from enough Democrats and Republicans to pass.
But McCain's appearance yesterday at the White House - where he reportedly gave a nod to an alternative, tax-cutting plan devised by conservatives in the House of Representatives - continues to roil the process.
1. First Presidential Debate:
Date: September 26 – Site: University of Mississippi – Topic: Foreign Policy & National Security – Moderator: Jim Lehrer – Staging: Podium debate – Answer Format: The debate will be broken into nine, 9-minute segments. The moderator will introduce a topic and allow each candidate 2 minutes to comment. After these initial answers, the moderator will facilitate an open discussion of the topic for the remaining 5 minutes, ensuring that both candidates receive an equal amount of time to comment