In announcing the move, he called on Sen. Barack Obama to follow suit.
McCain's actions put in some doubt whether the scheduled debate on Friday would go off as planned. McCain was asking Obama to cancel the debate if no bailout package is approved by early Friday.
"I am calling on the president to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself," McCain said. "It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem."
Obama did not agree, suggesting that McCain was playing a political game.
“It’s my belief that this is exactly the time the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible with dealing with this mess," he said in Florida. "What I think is important is that we don’t suddenly infuse Capitol Hill with presidential politics."
Obama then criticized McCain's ability to multi-task.
"Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. It’s not necessary for us to think that we can do only one thing, and suspend everything else."
While Republicans welcomed the move as a demonstration of McCain's ability to provide leadership in a crisis, the candidate was also quickly criticized by a number of Obama supporters who sense a cynical motive by the McCain camp.
“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,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement. “If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership; not a campaign photo op.”
“What, does McCain think the Senate will still be working at 9 p.m. Friday?” Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania told The New York Times, referring to the scheduled start time of the debate. “I think this is all political — I wish McCain had shown the same concern when he didn’t show up in the Senate to vote on the extension of the renewable energy tax credit.”
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is leading House Democrats in the talks with the White House, said McCain was reaching for a victory. “It’s the longest Hail Mary pass in the history of either football or Marys,” Mr. Frank told a group of reporters outside the House chamber.
The move also hit the entertainment world. McCain had been scheduled to appear on "Late Night With David Letterman." When Letterman heard about the cancellation, he let the GOP candidate have it on his show, according to The Drudge Report:
Dave kept saying, "You don't suspend your campaign. This doesn't smell right. This isn't the way a tested hero behaves." And he joked: "I think someone's putting something in his metamucil."
"He can't run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sara Palin. Where is she?"
"What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"