CNN's John King repeated McCain's dubious explanation of vote against Bush tax cuts

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

CNN's John King reported that Sen. John McCain "didn't vote for the Bush tax cuts because there weren't spending cuts." In fact, during the Senate debate on the conference committee version of the 2001 tax cut bill, McCain did not mention the absence of offsetting spending cuts; rather, he stated that, while he supported an earlier version of the bill "that provided more tax relief to middle income Americans," "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 most need tax relief."

On the January 8 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, chief national correspondent John King reported that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has a "tax cut problem, and he's trying to explain that" to New Hampshire Republicans. King went on to describe McCain's explanation: "He didn't vote for the Bush tax cuts because there weren't spending cuts," adding: "You can sell that message in New Hampshire. They are Yankee fiscal conservatives -- don't spend what you don't have." However, in the floor statement McCain made during the May 2001 Senate debate on the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) conference committee report, in which he explained why he was not voting for the bill, McCain did not mention the absence of offsetting spending cuts. In fact, in that statement, provided in its entirety below, McCain said that, while he supported an earlier version of the bill "that provided more tax relief to middle income Americans," "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 most need tax relief."

Moreover, in that same floor statement, he suggested that neither the cost of the tax cut nor the spending restrictions that would result were the deciding factor behind his opposition to the EGTRRA conference report. Said McCain: "I supported a $1.35 trillion tax cut" -- referring to his support for the Senate's version of the EGTRRA (known as the RELIEF Act) -- "despite my concern that a tax cut of that size would restrict our ability to fund necessary increases in defense spending." The conference committee version of EGTRRA -- the one McCain said he was voting against -- also had a 10-year total estimated cost of $1.35 trillion.

McCain's entire statement, from the May 26, 2001, Senate debate on the EGTRRA conference report, as reported in the Congressional Record (and noted in a McCain press release):

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I rise to oppose the Conference Report on the Reconciliation bill [EGTRRA]. I do so after having expressed hope that the progress we made in the Senate bill to scale back the benefits going to the top rate taxpayers to make room for more tax relief to lower income Americans would prevail in the final tax bill.

During the debate on the Senate version of the tax reconciliation bill, I had urged my colleagues that substantial tax relief to middle income Americans should be our top priority. While I regret that my amendment to cut the top rate by one percent to 38.6 percent so millions more middle class Americans would fall into the 15 percent tax bracket failed on a tie vote, Senator [Charles] Grassley [R-IA] did move in that direction in the Senate bill by insisting that the top rate should be cut to only 36 percent. As a result, I reluctantly voted for the bill but pledged to vote against the Conference Report should further reductions in the top tax rate be made at the expense of the majority of Americans who are in much greater need of tax relief.

Unfortunately, the Conference Report did just that by jettisoning the commendable work both Senators GRASSLEY and [Max] BAUCUS [D-MT] did in crafting a Senate reconciliation bill that provided more tax relief to middle income Americans. This Conference Report lowers the top rate cut to 35 percent, at the cost of delaying, for several years, much needed tax relief for married couples unfairly penalized by our tax code.

I regret having to vote against this Conference Report. We had an opportunity to provide much more tax relief to millions of hard-working Americans. I supported a $1.35 trillion tax cut despite my concern that a tax cut of that size would restrict our ability to fund necessary increases in defense spending. But 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 most need tax relief.

From the January 8 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: But, John, he's competing for those independents with [Sen.] Barack Obama [D-IL], with [Rep.] Ron Paul [R-TX], right? There's a lot of people competing for those independents.

KING: Which is why McCain has run more of a Republican campaign this time on the issues in New Hampshire. He has the immigration problem. He knows that. He has the tax cut problem, and he's trying to explain that. He didn't vote for the Bush tax cuts because there weren't spending cuts. You can sell that message in New Hampshire. They are Yankee fiscal conservatives -- don't spend what you don't have. And that has been McCain's message in New Hampshire.

He won among Republicans in 2000. People often forget that he narrowly beat Bush among Republicans in 2000. The big margin came from independents. He can't count on the independents this time, so he needs to beat [Gov.] Mitt Romney [R-MA] among Republicans.

Posted In
Economy, Taxes
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
John King
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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