Thursday, November 27th, 2014
Half-True
Democratic National Committee
"McCain has voted repeatedly at least six times against funding for global HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB fund, once as one of only 14 senators."

Democratic National Committee on Monday, April 28th, 2008 in a news release.

Selectively choosing his votes

It would take a real hypocrite to announce that as president you would launch an initiative to end malaria when, as a senator, you repeatedly voted against malaria prevention efforts. That's the trap the Democratic National Committee said they caught Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain in last month after McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, announced his plan to eradicate malaria.

In a news release dated March 26, the DNC claimed to fact-check McCain's malaria pledge by contrasting McCain's "rhetoric" with the "reality" that "McCain has voted repeatedly at least six times against funding for global HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB fund, once as one of only 14 senators."

The release proceeds to list six instances between 2001 and 2003 in which McCain voted against bills or amendments that would have boosted funding for malaria prevention.

An open and shut case of hypocrisy? Not quite, as it turns out. Indeed, McCain did vote against the bills cited by the DNC. But in each case, other factors cloud the issue and, in the end, McCain mostly supported less generous alternative measures favored by his party.

In the 2001 vote cited by the DNC, for example, an amendment by Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold would have boosted funding for AIDS and malaria prevention in Africa but at the same time cut funding for Defense Department military procurement to pay for it. Many Democratic senators, including Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, also voted against it.

In both of the 2002 votes cited, McCain voted against an emergency supplemental spending bill to combat terrorism on the grounds that it included too many provisions — malaria funding included — that had nothing to do with terrorism. In the second of those votes, McCain was one of only 14 senators to oppose a less generous GOP alternative.

And in the case of the 2003 votes cited by the DNC, Republicans said they preferred alternative legislation for a number of reasons, arguing that Democratic amendments didn't include language to encourage donations from other countries, would have exceeded budget restrictions, and might overwhelm the bureaucracy with so much money that it wouldn't be able to disburse it wisely.

With the exception of the 2001 vote and one of the 2002 votes, the remaining four votes split mostly along party lines, with Democrats arguing that the GOP concerns were outweighed by the magnitude of the AIDS crisis in Africa. In the end, compromises were reached on funding measures that were somewhat less generous, which McCain supported. As a result, the DNC's charge of hypocrisy is only Half True.