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Mitt Romney has repeatedly charged John McCain with flip-flopping on tax cuts. He points out that McCain twice voted against President Bush's tax changes before deciding to support them. He repeated his attack at the Republican debate in Boca Raton.
Though Romney omits some important details, we again find that he is accurately summarizing McCain's record.
In 2001, McCain voted against a $1.35-trillion tax cut package, arguing that the tax cuts didn't do enough for the middle class, and because of a need for increased defense spending. Two years later, McCain again citied spending for opposing $350-billion in additional tax cuts, specifically citing the unknown costs for the war in Iraq.
But in 2006, McCain changed position and voted to extend the Bush tax cuts for five years. He said not to do so would be tantamount to raising taxes at a time when the economy was sputtering.
McCain said he supported the tax-cut extensions, which reduced tax rates on capital gains and dividend income, because "American businesses and investors need a stable and predictable tax policy to continue contributing to the growth of our economy. These considerations lead me to the conclusion that we should not reverse course by letting higher tax rates take effect."
In an interview on Fox News on Dec. 28, 2007, he expressed no regrets about his tax votes against Bush. He said he would have preferred a plan that included spending cuts as well as tax cuts, but added that he believes the tax cuts should now be made permanent.
"We presided over the greatest increase in the size of government since the Great Society," McCain said. "Spending went completely out of control. It's still out of control. Wasteful earmark spending is a disgrace, and it caused us to alienate our Republican base. So these tax cuts need to be made permanent. Otherwise, they would have the effect of tax increases. But, look, if we had gotten spending under control, we'd be talking about more tax cuts today."
McCain has responded by calling Romney a flip-flopper on taxes and other issues, but the fact remains: McCain voted the way Romney says. We find Romney's claim to be True. And if you'd like to see our previous same rulings on this issue, see here and here.
Updated: This post has been updated to correct the reasons McCain gave at the time for opposing tax cuts in 2001. Our initial posting attributed his reasons to statements he made later about fiscal restraint.
CQ Weekly, "John McCain: Softening the Skeptics," by David Nather, May 8, 2006
Washington Times, "McCain Looks Presidential on Taxes," by Donald Lambro, Feb. 27, 2006
CQ Today, "Senate Approaches Showdown on Tax Cuts," Joseph J. Schatz, March 18, 2003
Sen. John McCain, McCain statement on final tax reconciliation bill , May 26, 2001.
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