John McCain (R-AZ) has been repeatedly claiming on the stump that passing an economic stimulus package is at the very top of his agenda. He has told audiences that the “first thing we gotta do is pass the stimulus package through the Senate.” During a Jan. 24 GOP debate, he explicitly pledged to vote on such legislation when it reached the Senate. Watch McCain make this promise on repeated occasions:
As recently as this morning, McCain again told reporters that he planned on returning to the Senate for this evening’s vote on the economic stimulus, stating that Congress needed to quickly pass legislation.
The measure, blocked by conservatives, fell just one vote short of the 60 needed to end debate. At the “last minute,” McCain decided to skip the vote, even though his plane landed in DC in time. McCain claimed that he was “too busy“:
“I haven’t had a chance to talk about it at all, have not had the opportunity to, even,” McCain said. “We’ve just been too busy, focused on other stuff. I don’t know if I’m doing that. We’ve got a couple of meetings scheduled.”
Both Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) were able to return to the Senate and vote on the bill.
The stimulus package, which included “$600-$1,200 rebate checks for more than 100 million Americans,” would also have provided “$44 billion in help for the elderly, disabled veterans, the unemployed and businesses.” The bill was opposed by hardline conservatives whom McCain is hoping to woo. By not voting for bill, as he had promised, McCain caved to the right wing and turned his back on 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled vets. As the AP notes:
Voting “no” with Republican leaders would have offended millions of Social Security recipients and the disabled veterans not scheduled to receive rebates. Voting “yes,” on the other hand, risked alienating Bush, GOP leaders and conservatives already suspicious of McCain’s political leanings. McCain was speaking Thursday before a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a group that booed him last year in absentia.
Today proved to be quite a detour for the straight talk express.
You know that we have some significant economic challenges. And we have a great nation and we have the fundamentals of a strong economy. But my friends, we’ve got some work to do. First thing we gotta do is pass the stimulus package through the Senate, not load it up with a bunch of pork-barrel earmark projects. And get it through the Senate, and get that stimulus to our economy going so people can regain confidence. [...]
First thing we have to do is pass the stimulus package through the Senate. Don’t load it up with a bunch of pork-barrel projects. Have the President sign it, and let’s start moving forward. [...]
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Senator McCain, will you support the part of this that does not make the Bush tax cuts permanent? And as the only member of the Senate on the stage, will you vote for this compromise?
SEN. MCCAIN: Yes, I will.