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McCain Bends His Pledge To Eliminate All Earmarks Again: I Will Judge Spending Cuts ‘On The Basis Of Need’

By Matt Corley  

"McCain Bends His Pledge To Eliminate All Earmarks Again: I Will Judge Spending Cuts ‘On The Basis Of Need’"

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mccainheadslap.jpgOn the campaign trail, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) makes a big show of claiming that he is the “worst nightmare” of Congressional spending and that if elected, he “will veto every bill with earmarks.” At the same time, McCain’s campaign has said it will “cut some $160 billion in discretionary spending” out of the budget, including $95 billion that “began life as an earmark.”

But in an interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel yesterday, McCain bent his earmark elimination pledge, indicating that he would consider making an exception for projects like the Gee’s Bend ferry that he recently visited in Alabama:

SIEGEL: Why should voters, particularly in those places, believe that you’d do any better by them than other politicians, especially when you might even take away the earmarks that might bring them a new construction project or something like that?

SEN. MCCAIN: I can assure them that the earmarks that they have received, which have been few and far between because they are not represented by powerful lobbyists and special interests in Washington, that we will judge any expenditure of the American people’s tax dollars on the basis of need. Someone pointed out several earmarks that have been fortunately gifted to some of the neediest people in comparison to the earmarks that have gone, first of all. For an example, at Gee’s Bend they put in a ferry a couple years ago, and that was an earmark.

Listen here:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/04/radnprmv.320.40.flv]

Just as with his false claim that he is “the only one the special interests don’t give any money to,” McCain has a credibility gap whenever he makes a sweeping statement that he will eliminate all earmarks.

As Think Progress has noted, in order to fulfill his pledge, McCain would need to cut U.S. aid for Israel and military housing. Faced with this reality earlier this week, McCain told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos that he would make an exception for such programs.

Thus far, McCain refuses to “name programs he’ll cut” and when challenged on particular programs, he seems to always make an exception. Is that what he calls “straight talk?”

Transcript:

MR. SIEGEL: This campaign tour that you’re on is the It’s Time for Action Now tour. You’re campaigning in Youngstown, Ohio, rural Kentucky, Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Most campaigns say it’s time for action now or that it’s time to finally do something. Why should voters, particularly in those places, believe that you’d do any better by them than other politicians, especially when you might even take away the earmarks that might bring them a new construction project or something like that?

SEN. MCCAIN: I can assure them that the earmarks that they have received, which have been few and far between because they are not represented by powerful lobbyists and special interests in Washington, that we will judge any expenditure of the American people’s tax dollars on the basis of need. Someone pointed out several earmarks that have been fortunately gifted to some of the neediest people in comparison to the earmarks that have gone, first of all.

For an example, at Gee’s Bend they put in a ferry a couple years ago, and that was an earmark. Several years before that, they refurbished a statue of Vulcan for many millions of dollars in Birmingham. In any comparative process, open and authorizing process, the refurbishment of a statue of Vulcan in Birmingham would have taken a far, far lower priority than one that went ahead of it, and that is a ferry for the citizens of Gee’s Bend. So I’m saying to you that the people have been shortchanged because of this pork barrel and earmark project. The people who are least and last represented in Washington, which is our lowest income Americans, and I can prove that.

MR. SIEGEL: But you still don’t want to spend any federal money on them do you? I mean, you’re against government spending.

SEN. MCCAIN: Of course I do if there’s a need. (Chuckles.) If there’s a need, we should take care of Americans in need. Frankly, I’m astonished at the question. Of course we need to take care of Americans who are needy. We need to do it through an open, honest, transparent process that is proceeded by hearings and authorization, not by putting in a project not only in the middle of the night but maybe even after the president has signed the bill, which was the case of some millions of dollars to a project in Florida, apparently put in either by the staff or a member of Congress after the bill was passed.

‹ McCain open to ‘tearing down’ Lower Ninth Ward.

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