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More On Senator McCain’s Record

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My column on Senator McCain’s need for a neuralyzer overlooked other big problems with the Arizona maverick’s record. From The Club for Growth’s white paper on Senator McCain:

[H]is overall record is tainted by a marked antipathy towards the free market and individual freedom.

This antipathy is evidenced by the Senator’s vocal and class-warfare-laced opposition to the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts; his occasional but eager support for increased government regulation; his support for raising Social Security taxes; and his persistent attacks on political free speech in the form of the McCain-Feingold Act.

“The Bush tax cuts were a driving force behind the economic prosperity of the last couple of years and a cornerstone of a pro-growth philosophy,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. “Not only did Senator McCain oppose these cuts, he aligned himself with the likes of Ted Kennedy in his rhetorical attacks in 2001 and 2003. Four years later, American taxpayers still have not heard the Senator disavow his misguided statements and votes.”


First, it is notable that Senator McCain stood so astride the Republican anti-tax position that he was one of only two Republican senators to oppose the 2001 tax cuts[5] and one of only three GOP senators to oppose the 2003 reductions.[6]

Second, Senator McCain’s stated reason for opposing the Bush tax cuts rhetorically allied him with the most radical anti-growth elements of national politics. Senator McCain argued, “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief.”[7] Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) sounded a similar theme, saying, “Now, they are proposing more of the same, more tax breaks benefiting only the wealthiest among us,”[8] as did Democratic Representative Maxine Waters (CA-35): “I voted against the Republican tax cut plan, which is an irresponsible tax cut that will further undermine the nation’s struggling economy at the expense of middle-class American families.”[9] Senator McCain’s eager embrace of grossly inaccurate class-warfare demagoguery demonstrated, at best, a painful ignorance of pro-growth economic principles.[# More #]

Third, Senator McCain not only voted against the Bush tax cuts, he joined leading liberal senators in offering and voting for amendments designed to undermine them. All in all, Senator McCain voted on the pro-tax side of 14 such amendments in 2001 and 2003. These included such odious measures as:

  • An amendment sponsored by Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) to prohibit a reduction in the top tax rate until Congress enacted legislation to provide a prescription drug benefit[10]
  • An amendment sponsored by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) against full repeal of the Death Tax.[11] This vote is in keeping with Senator McCain’s 2002 vote against repealing the Death Tax[12]
  • An amendment sponsored by Tom Daschle (D-SD) and co-sponsored by Senator McCain to limit tax reduction in the top tax bracket to one percentage point[13]


At first glance, John McCain’s record on regulation appears generally positive, including a vote against a minimum wage increase in 2005;[48] a vote against the 2003 Energy Bill;[49] and a vote against the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug Bill.[50] A deeper look at Senator McCain’s record, however, reveals a number of votes and bills that reflect much less favorably on his commitment to free market principles and his claim to being an economic conservative.

Most egregious is Senator McCain’s leadership role in two bills that would have drastically restricted free enterprise. The first was the Patients’ Bill of Rights, which he sponsored with Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and former trial lawyer John Edwards (D-NC).[51] The bill allowed the government to impose a set of onerous mandates on insurance coverage instead of allowing individuals to make their own decisions about healthcare plans in the marketplace.

Two years later, the Arizona maverick took a another swing at the free market with the Climate Stewardship Act, a bill he sponsored with Joe Lieberman (D-CT)[52] to require greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 2000 levels by the year 2010. This intrusive bill was projected to cost $76 billion annually by 2025, with huge increases in the cost of electricity and gasoline according to the Department of Energy.[53]

Unfortunately, these two bills do not close the book on Senator McCain’s regulatory indiscretions. Over the years he has voted for a number of other big-government bills. These include:

  • Voted for an amendment that would authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to set prices on prescription drugs under Medicare[54]
  • Voted against a bill that would prohibit an increase in CAFE standards[55]
  • Voted for an amendment that would prohibit oil drilling in part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska[56]
  • Voted (along with all of his Senate colleagues) in favor of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, an overreaction to corporate malfeasance that imposed heavy financial burdens on companies[57]

Much like his record on taxes, these terrible votes cast a dark shadow on Senator McCain’s positive votes. His anti-growth votes are exacerbated by his characteristic vociferousness in cases like the Patients’ Bill of Rights and the Climate Stewardship Act. His occasional eagerness to support and encourage increased government regulation suggests a troublesome mistrust of the free market.


Nowhere is Senator McCain’s record on pro-growth issues more appalling than on the important issue of protecting political speech. Senator McCain was the driving force behind the ultimate passage of the McCain-Feingold Act, a bill that imposed grossly unconstitutional restrictions on citizen participation in the political process.[62]

Over the ten-plus years since Senator McCain first introduced campaign finance reform legislation, he has pursued his trampling of the First Amendment with a vengeance. On a April 28, 2006 taping of The Don Imus Show, McCain cavalierly admitted as much: “He [Michael Graham] also mentioned my abridgement of First Amendment rights, i.e. talking about campaign finance reform . . . I know that money corrupts . . . I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government.”[63]

In defense of the provision banning issue advocacy ads that mention a candidate 60 days before an election, McCain said, “These ads are almost always negative attack ads, and do little to further beneficial debate and healthy political dialogue.” In his brief to the Supreme Court, Senator McCain continued along the same lines: “These ads are direct, blatant attacks on the candidates. We don’t think that’s right.”[64]

Thus, Senator McCain and his partner in crime, Senator Russ Feingold, have anointed themselves the arbiters of appropriate political speech, worthy of deciphering which speech is “right” and which should be permitted in American political debate. To this day, Senator McCain remains responsible for the greatest modern infringement of political free speech. While bestowing significant advantages upon incumbent office holders, this feat has created neither a less corrupt political domain nor a more democratic one.


Senator McCain’s outspoken pursuit of anti-growth and anti-free-market policies in the realms of taxes, regulation, and campaign finance reveals a philosophical ambivalence, if not hostility, about limited government and personal freedom. This ambivalence, combined with a rebellious nature, often leaves taxpayers the victims of his latest cause clbre. Despite his positive votes-and there are several-his negative positions have tainted, perhaps beyond repair, the positive ones over his twenty-four years in Congress. The evidence of his record and the virulence of his rhetoric suggest that American taxpayers cannot expect consistently strong economic policies from a McCain administration.



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