John McCain
Sen.

John McCain

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Party R
State AZ
Years in DC 30
Next Election 2022

LibertyScore®

F 32%

McCain at a Glance

John McCain was born in Panama Canal Zone on August 29, 1936. McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy and the National War College. He served as a pilot in the United States Navy from 1958-1981, was prisoner of war in Vietnam from 1967-1973, where he was tortured, and received numerous awards, including the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, and Distinguished Flying Cross.

After serving in U.S. Navy from 1954 to 1981, John McCain was elected to the House in 1982, and served for two terms.  In 1986, he was elected to Barry Goldwater’s seat in the Senate and is currently serving his fifth term.  McCain ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, but lost to George W. Bush.  He won the GOP nomination in 2008, but lost the general election to Barack Obama.  

Particularly over the past 15 years, McCain has been the most high-profile dissenter from the Republican Party platform, often embracing the nickname “maverick.”  He is a member of the liberal Republican Main Street Partnership, an organization that is “aligned with the governing wing of the Republican Party and centrist policymakers,”[1] as stated in the group’s mission statement.

McCain is currently Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is also a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Indian Affairs committees. 

McCain is the lead author of the bill to regulate modern campaign finances (McCain-Feingold), a move that was universally condemned by conservatives as unconstitutional and tendentious to incumbent politicians.  He has also been the leading voice within the Republican Party for open borders and amnesty. McCain helped lead the effort to pass amnesty, with then junior Senator from Florida, Mel Martinez and Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2006, and now with Sens. Marco Rubio and Chuck Schumer in 2013.

McCain has also been roundly criticized by conservatives for opposing the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, and is widely blamed for watering down the cuts and forcing sunset provisions that have caused some of the tax rates to expire.

During last decade, as a member of the Commerce Committee, McCain was one of the leading voices within the GOP pushing for global warming and cap-and-trade style regulations on energy output, in addition to opposing some proposals to drill for oil.  However, in recent years, he has tamped down his support as most Republicans have moved beyond the global warming agenda.  

He has also been more open to federal mandates and regulations on private industry and weak on certain liberty issues.  His advocacy of limiting campaign contributions and regulating tobacco shows a penchant for using robust federal powers and big government to limit freedom.  

Throughout his career, McCain has been a leading voice on foreign policy. As a long-standing member of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, McCain has advocated a very interventionist foreign policy in recent years, one that includes supporting all insurgency movements overthrowing dictators in foreign countries, often with American “boots on the ground.”  His views have often overlapped with conservatives advocating a strong national defense, but his support for the Arab Spring uprisings, spreading democracy to the Arab world, and offering unconditional foreign aid to many questionable endeavors have met stiff resistance from conservatives.

McCain has even been an unreliable vote on some Republican staple issues, such as life, traditional marriage, and defense of the Second Amendment.  He has also led efforts to help Democrats confirm liberal judicial and executive nominees.

Although McCain has been very weak on the tax and regulatory side of conservatism, he has been relatively strong on the subsidy side, opposing subsidies for energy, agriculture, and trade for most of his career.  He has also been a leading voice against pork-barrel spending.  But on net, he has not only been a vote for Democrats on many key issues, but also a key voice by helping strategize and whip votes for them against conservatives.  Overall, McCain is no friend to conservatives and jokes that his real constituency is the press core.


[1] http://www.republicanmainstreet.org/mission-2/

What You Don't See on the Scorecard

Flip-flops:
  • In 2000, McCain opposed overturning Roe v. Wade when he was in the running for president, but backpedaled in 2007. In January 2000, McCain voiced his support for a Constitutional ban on all abortions[1]. The following month, he contradicted his position during a presidential debate in South Carolina, stating his opposition to abortion with the exceptions of rape, incest and threat to the mother’s health[2].
  • In 2008, McCain was tweaked by the LA Times for his flip-flops on many aspects of energy policy[3].
  • McCain has been criticized for making promises on the campaign trail that he breaks after being elected. For example, in his 2010 campaign ad, McCain is shown talking to a border patrol officer with instructions to “complete the dang fence.[4] Four years later, not only is the border fence left unsecured, McCain is an active champion of amnesty as was one of the leaders in the crafting of the Gang of 8 immigration bill.
Looking for Friends in All the Wrong Places:
  • McCain made a special drop-by visit to praise Obama’s liberal nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Sylvia Matthews Burwell[5].
  • At the 2013 State of the Union address, McCain stood alongside Schumer, clapping enthusiastically when Obama mentioned amnesty[6]. Clapping along with Schumer when Obama mentions amnesty at 2013 SOTU address.
  • Not only does McCain go out of his way to rub elbows with liberal leaders, he has publicly criticized conservative members of his party. In June 2013, McCain ridiculed Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) on the senate floor after Fischer explained her reasons for opposing the “Gang of Eight” amnesty bill[7]
  • In February 2014, McCain ripped Senator Cruz (R-TX) and other members for holding up a bill that would provide aid to Ukraine because of unnecessary and counter-conservative International Monetary Fund “reforms” that were included in the aid package[8], [9]
  • On June 29, 2014, McCain lauded Senator Thad Cochran’s reelection strategy of enticing Democrats to vote in the primary by promising them more food stamp spending[10].  Conservatives were outraged by this tactic.
Troubling Take on Taxes:
  • In conjunction the Clinton administration’s release of a report on minority smoking in 1998, McCain’s push for his sponsored legislation to raise the tax on tobacco received criticism from many, including leaders in his own party. During the 2008 presidential campaign, McCain’s campaign tried to sweep the bill under the rug.[11]
  • "I think Senator McCain deserves a lot of credit in getting a bill out of the Commerce Committee. But virtually everybody knows that that cannot be the final bill." [12] - Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” (1998)
  • "If [the money] is going to be spent on more of the president's social spending programs or other programs not related to tobacco, Republicans simply aren't going to go along with it. We're not going to just simply vote in billions more dollars to be spent on some of the president's pet proposals."[13] – Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) on CBS’s “Face the Nation” (1998)
  • In 2001, he was the only Republican to oppose Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax cut[14].  During the same debate, he opposed an effort to further cut the capital gains tax rate[15].  McCain has explained his rationale for opposing the Bush tax cuts on the grounds of “disproportionality.”
  • “I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportionate amount that went to the wealthiest Americans. I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order to help address the deficit.” – Senator McCain (NBC’s Meet the Press, April, 2004)
  • In 2002, he voted against repealing the Death Tax[16].  McCain also opposed the 2003 Bush tax cuts, which reduced the tax burden on income and dividends by $350 billion.[17]
  • In 2005, he voted to repeal $70 billion of the tax cuts that were slated to expire.[18]
Common Core:
  • He referred to Jeb Bush as “the smartest guy I know on education,” but declined to answer when pressed by reporters whether Jeb’s support for Common Core was an issue.[19] To date, McCain has yet to publically announce his position on Common Core.

[1] http://www.factcheck.org/2008/09/mccains-position-on-abortion/
[2] http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0002/15/lkl.00.html
[3] http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jul/01/nation/na-energy1
[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0lwusMxiHc&feature=kp
[5] http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/205578-mccain-makes-cameo-appearance-to-praise-obamas-hhs-nominee
[6] http://blog.chron.com/txpotomac/2013/02/video-a-glum-ted-cruz-sits-silently-as-mccain-dances-his-approval-of-immigration-reform/
[7] http://www.senateconservatives.com/site/post/2147/john-mccain-belittles-deb-fischer
[8] http://www.politico.com/story/2014/03/john-mccain-ronald-reagan-urkraine-aid-bill-104658.html?hp=l8_b1
[9] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=113&session=1&vote=00086
[10] http://www.azcentral.com/story/azdc/2014/06/29/mccain-mississippi-cochran-mcdaniel/11580019/
[11] http://www.rollcall.com/issues/54_19/-27363-1.html
[12] http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1998/04/26/tobacco/
[13] http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1998/04/26/tobacco/
[14] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=107&session=1&vote=00170
[15] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=107&session=1&vote=00115
[16] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=107&session=2&vote=00151
[17] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=108&session=1&vote=00179
[18] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=1&vote=00059
[19] http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/mccain-jeb-bush-the-smartest-guy-i-know-on-education/2173346

Legislation & Initiatives

Taxes:
  • In 1998, McCain sponsored and shepherded a bill that would raise the tax on tobacco to $516 billion over 25 years, which would have been the largest tax increase in history.[1] As chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, he ushered the bill through Committee 19-1.[2] When running for president in 2008, McCain declined to acknowledge the bill and stated he was against raising taxes on cigarettes which Roll Call points out “…raised questions among conservatives about his commitment to keeping a lid on taxes when he said two weeks ago that “nothing’s off the table” in answer to a question about whether he would raise payroll taxes as part of a Social Security fix. Aides have suggested that the Senator merely recognizes that the issue has to be approached without preconditions.”[3] (Roll Call 2008)
Second Amendment:
  • In his fight against 2nd Amendment rights, McCain sponsored an amendment[4] to the 2004 gun bill that would ostensibly ban the private sale of firearms at gun shows[5].
  • He appeared in ads in Colorado and Oregon for ballot propositions requiring background checks for sales at gun shows.
EPA Regulations:
  • McCain proposed CAFE standards with Senator John Kerry, standards for all cars and light trucks of 36 miles per gallon by 2015.
  • In 2003, he promoted the bill he co-sponsored with former Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) to reduce carbon dioxide emissions; where it received 43 votes on the floor of the Senate in 2003[6].
Immigration:
  • In 2006, McCain led the immigration debate by introducing a massive amnesty bill with the late Ted Kennedy (D-MA). The McCain-Kennedy bill, the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act (S. 1033), not only excluded key aspects of comprehensive reform but was drafted around granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.[7]
  • In 2013, McCain was a leading member of the bipartisan working group known as the “Gang of 8,” who unveiled a massive immigration overhaul and amnesty package. In addition to McCain, the group consisted of Senators Rubio (R-FL), Flake (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC), Durbin (D-IL), Menendez (D-NJ), Schumer (D-NY), and Bennett (D-CO)[8]. The bill, introduced on April 17, 2013 as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, is far from conservative and consequentially, sounded the alarm for the conservative base on the Republican members of the group and solidified McCain’s long-standing support for a liberal approach to immigration reform.[9]
  • As the lead sponsor, McCain, voted for Gang of 8 Amnesty Bill[10] in 2013 on the floor and in committee.  He even voted against a number of floor amendments designed to improve the bill including:
    • A provision to ensure that the border is secured before any amnesty is granted.[11]
    • A provision requiring completion of the reinforced double-layered border fencing. He was one of only five Republicans to do so. [12]
    • A provision requiring that a visa tracking system be implemented before any amnesty is granted.[13]
    • A provision that would require congressional votes affirming the border has been secured before the granting of temporary legal status.[14]
  • “If you keep these people in the shadows, it’s a stain on America’s honor.”[15]
  • -Sen. McCain to anyone who does not support granting amnesty (April, 2014)
Affirmative Action:
  • Regarding his stance on affirmative action, in 1998, McCain opposed an Arizona ballot proposal to end affirmative action stating, "Rather than engage in divisive ballot initiatives, we must have a dialogue and cooperation and mutual efforts together to provide for every child in America to fulfill their expectations."[16] That same year, McCain voted to keep a program that directed 10 percent of federal surface transportation funds to firms owned by women and racial minorities[17]. In 1999, McCain pushed legislation that would give companies tax breaks for selling media properties to minorities[18]. In 2003, McCain reintroduced the legislation[19].

[1] http://www.rollcall.com/issues/54_19/-27363-1.html
[2] http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1998/04/26/tobacco/
[3] http://www.rollcall.com/issues/54_19/-27363-1.html
[4] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=108&session=2&vote=00025
[5] http://www.gunowners.org/mcgungrab.htm
[6] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=108&session=1&vote=00420
[7] http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2005/07/the-mccain-kennedy-immigration-reform-bill-falls-short
[8] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/01/28/immigrations-gang-of-8-who-are-they/
[9] http://www.heritageactionscorecard.com/votes/vote/s168-2013
[10] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=113&session=1&vote=00168
[11] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=113&session=1&vote=00148
[12] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=113&session=1&vote=00151
[13] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=113&session=1&vote=00152
[14] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=113&session=1&vote=00154
[15] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/04/25/McCain-Not-Granting-Amnesty-a-Stain-on-America-s-Honor
[16] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_of_John_McCain#cite_note-273
[17] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_of_John_McCain#cite_note-274
[18] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_of_John_McCain#cite_note-275
[19] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_of_John_McCain#cite_note-276

Political & Electoral History

  • During the 2000 and 2008 presidential primary elections, the majority of Senator McCain’s political support came from major GOP establishment leaders and donors. During both presidential campaigns, McCain relied on his moderate politics in the hopes of gaining support across the party’s spectrum, even taking on Christian, conservative leaders such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell in 2000[1]. As McCain continues to publically align himself with moderates; endorsing candidates such as Jeb Bush for the 2016 presidential election; he continues to reach new depths of disappointment with conservatives.

“Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics.[2]

                                                                        -Senator McCain (The New Yorker, 2008)



[1] http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/11/17/081117fa_fact_grann?currentPage=all

[2] http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/11/17/081117fa_fact_grann?currentPage=all