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McCain, Obama headed to Washington for bailout talks

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  • NEW: Presidential hopefuls to meet with Bush on Thursday
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(CNN) -- Presidential candidates Sen. John McCain -- who said Wednesday that he was suspending his campaign because of the nation's economic crisis -- and Sen. Barack Obama will meet Thursday with President Bush to discuss a proposed Wall Street bailout.

Obama says any Wall Street bailout legislation also needs to  help homeowners facing foreclosure.

McCain suspended his campaign, saying it was time for both parties to come together to solve economic crisis.

McCain and Obama accepted Bush's invitation to discuss the proposed $700 billion bailout with him and congressional leaders at the White House, the candidates' aides said Wednesday night.

Also Wednesday night, McCain and Obama said in a joint statement that the bailout plan was "flawed" but that "the effort to protect the American economy must not fail."

"Now is a time to come together -- Democrats and Republicans -- in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of the American people," read the statement, which was released about 15 minutes before Bush made a televised address on the economy.

Earlier Wednesday, McCain announced that he would suspend his campaign to go to Washington and participate in negotiations on the bailout plan, and he called for a postponement of Friday's presidential debate. Video Watch McCain's announcement »

His campaign suggested that he would skip the debate if Congress hadn't passed legislation addressing the crisis by then. Obama, however, said the debate in Oxford, Mississippi, should go forward.

"It's my belief that this is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person will be the next president," the Democrat said in Clearwater, Florida. "It is going to be part of the president's job to deal with more than one thing at once. It's more important than ever to present ourselves to the American people."

The University of Mississippi, the host of Friday's presidential debate, said it is going ahead with preparations for the event. Video Watch Obama say debate shouldn't be postponed »

McCain's suspension of his campaign hours before Bush's address to the nation on the troubled state of the U.S. financial system, a problem for which Bush's administration has proposed having the Treasury Department buy up to $700 billion in firms' troubled assets -- mainly mortgage-backed securities -- whose values declined as the housing market imploded.

The plan's goal is to stabilize the companies and prompt them to lend again. Video Watch Bush's address »

While McCain and Obama jointly called for bipartisan cooperation on the economic crisis, in a separate statement Obama outlined some principles he said should guide the legislation and called on McCain to support them.

Obama said the plan should help the "millions of families facing foreclosure" and not just Wall Street; create "an independent, bipartisan board to ensure accountability and complete transparency"; have Wall Street repay taxpayers for the bailout; and have an independent, bipartisan board to oversee the bailout.

"This plan cannot be a welfare program for CEOs whose greed and irresponsibility has contributed to this crisis," Obama's statement said.

Before Bush invited McCain and Obama to the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement saying that the presidential debate should go on.

"If there were ever a time for both candidates to hold a debate before the American people about this serious challenge, it is now," he added.

McCain senior adviser Mark Salter said that the campaign will suspend airing all ads and all campaign events pending Obama's agreement.

Salter also said McCain called Bush and talked to colleagues in Washington and learned that passage of the bailout plan as it then stood was next to impossible.

Between McCain's announcement and Bush's speech, congressional leaders said progress has been made in negotiations.

"We agree that key changes should be made to the administration's initial proposal," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader John Boehner said in a joint statement. "It must include basic good-government principles, including rigorous and independent oversight, strong executive compensation standards, and protection for taxpayers."

Obama told reporters that before McCain suspended his campaign, he had called McCain on Wednesday to propose a joint statement of principles to govern the bailout.

McCain announced the campaign suspension shortly after their conversation, Obama said. The joint statement came out hours later.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said McCain's move was "just weird."

"We haven't heard hide nor hair of Sen. McCain in these negotiations," said Schumer, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. "He has not been involved except for an occasional, unhelpful statement, sort of thrown from far away, and the last thing we need in these delicate negotiations is an injection of presidential politics." Video Watch Schumer call McCain's move "weird" »

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, a McCain ally, said that having the candidates join in negotiations over the bailout would be "enormously helpful."

"We need a solution on this financial crisis more than we need a foreign policy debate," said Graham, R-South Carolina. "The next seven days could determine the financial well-being of this country. We can postpone the debate for a week."

And Rep. Roy Blunt, the Republicans' House whip, said McCain's decision "is a testament to the fact that [he] is a guy who would rather be part of the solution than run away from the fight."

The bailout plan has met with a cool reception in two days of hearings on Capitol Hill, where both Democrats and Republicans have expressed skepticism about the proposal drafted by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

McCain said he believes that Congress could forge a consensus on legislation "before the markets open on Monday."

Congress and the White House are trying to negotiate the details of what would be the most sweeping economic intervention by the government since the Great Depression. Bush has asked Congress to act quickly on the bailout proposal after news of failing financial institutions and frozen credit markets.

"The clock is ticking on this crisis. We have to act swiftly, but we also have to get it right," Obama said Wednesday in Dunedin, Florida. "And that means everyone -- Republicans and Democrats, and the White House and Congress -- must work together to come up with a solution that protects American taxpayers and our economy without rewarding those whose greed helped get us into this problem in the first place." iReport.com: Which candidate took the right approach?

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Obama said it's unacceptable to expect the American people to "hand this administration or any administration a $700 billion check with no conditions and no oversight when a lack of oversight in Washington and on Wall Street is exactly what got us into this mess."

He said that struggling homeowners must be taken care of in any economic recovery plan -- and that taxpayers should "not be spending one dime to reward the same Wall Street CEOs whose greed and irresponsibility got us into this mess."

CNN's Ed Hornick, Alexander Mooney, Rebecca Sinderbrand, John King, Elaine Quijano, Dana Bash and Kate Bolduan contributed to this report.

All About John McCainBarack ObamaNational Economy

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