"He made a couple of jokes, laughed about how people are going to be here for New Year's, sent a message of confrontation to the Republicans," McCain said. "I guess I have to wonder, and I think the American people have to wonder, whether the president really wants this issue resolved, or is it to his short-term political benefit to go over the cliff?"

McCain was reacting to the president's Monday remarks, which drew instant criticism from Republicans. He delivered his remarks among a group of people who seemed to be clear supporters, and could be heard clapping and laughing as Obama spoke. Obama at one point joked to the crowd that he would be stuck in Washington for New Year's Eve, along with many of those in the crowd.

McCain said Obama's comments would "clearly antagonize" House Republicans.

"The president basically, in his talk to whoever it is, that group of people that he was talking to [that] were laughing and cheering and applauding, as we are on the brink of this collapse ... what he was saying is, to the Republicans ... take it or leave it," he said. "That's not the way presidents should lead."