Today on ABC’s This Week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) once again boasted that he would cut spending in Washington by eliminating $65 billion in earmarks. “There’s billions that can be saved. Americans know that,” said McCain. “I look at $35 billion in the last two years and $65 billion in the years before that.”
But as host George Stephanopoulos noted (and ThinkProgress has reported in the past), that number, according to the Congressional Research Service, includes aid to Israel and funding for military housing.
When pressed on this point, McCain said that he wouldn’t cut aid to Israel. But he continued to struggle when trying to explain exactly how he would therefore cut $65 billion in earmarks, and could not name specific earmarks he would cut:
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, sir, let me finish my point. Every other estimate I’ve seen say that the earmarks are $18 billion or $20 billion a year. To get to the $60 billion, that includes earmarks like the aid to Israel, $2 billion a year. $1 billion a year for military housing.You’re not going to cut those.
McCAIN: I’m going to cut at least that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you cutting aid to Israel?
McCAIN: Of course not. I’m not cutting aid to Israel. I’m cutting billions and billions out of defense spending which are not earmarks.
McCain also boasted of his plans to trim $160 billion in discretionary spending. He railed against wasteful defense contracts, but Stephanopoulos pointed out that to get to that number, he would have to cut 30 percent from every single program, including education and veterans benefits. McCain once again avoided answering the question, simply repeating: “I’m talking about changing the way we do business in Washington.”
Interestingly, McCain continues to cite $65 billion in earmarks he would eliminate as president. But his advisers have already started to recognize problems with that figure. Last week, McCain’s top economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said that the campaign was changing the definition of earmarks. Under the new calculation, “there are between $16 billion and $18 billion” of earmarks in the current budget. Guess McCain didn’t get the memo.
Despite this muddled interview and lack of specifics on how he plans to cut spending, McCain still claimed that everyone in Washington feared him: “It’s the worst nightmare. I’m their worst nightmare, my friend.”
Transcript: Read more