Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has long portrayed himself as a staunch supporter of Israel. “Obvioiusly,” McCain has said, “I have been a very strong proponent to the State of Israel.” He recently told the Jewish Journal that if elected president, he would “hit the ground running” and immediately get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
It is astounding then that McCain has essentially vowed to eliminate U.S. funding assistance for Israel. In a speech yesterday on the economy, McCain said that as president, he will eliminate pork barrel spending, otherwise known as “earmarks”:
If that authority is entrusted to me, I will use the veto as needed, and as the Founders intended. I will veto every bill with earmarks, until the Congress stops sending bills with earmarks. I will seek a constitutionally valid line-item veto to end the practice once and for all.
Today on MSNBC, McCain cited “$65 billion” in earmarks “that’s already on the books” that he would cut. Watch it:
McCain does not identify the $65 billion in earmarks. In a conference call with reporters yesterday, McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said that McCain’s plan to eliminate earmarks uses the Congressional Research Service’s (CRS) definition of the term. According to an analysis by Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Scott Lilly, that CRS report identifies $52 billion per year which qualifies as earmark spending (Read the analysis here).
The problem is that the CRS — the group Holtz-Eakin cited as the basis for McCain’s earmark elimination plan — says that U.S. aid to Israel is considered an earmark:
Several special characteristics of the practice of earmarking in Foreign Operations bills are worth noting. Some observers define earmarks in a more limited way, identifying only provisions that direct spending for items not requested by the Administration or in excess of levels proposed for activities or countries. Although many Foreign Operations earmarks fall within this more narrow definition, congressional directives specifying spending amounts that are the same as shown in the Administration’s illustrative listing for country distributions also are regarded as earmarks. Annual earmarks for economic and military aid to Israel and Egypt are examples of such directives.
So is McCain’s plan to cut earmarks a pledge to eliminate all aid to Israel?