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As the U.S. Senate race in Arizona heats up, the TV ads are getting more and more brutal. In its latest ad, J.D. Hayworth's campaign attacks Sen. John McCain for alleged opposition to constructing a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The ad begins with a narrator announcing that "McCain lies...again." Then, over the course of several slides, it says that "McCain wrote the Amnesty Bill ... opposed the border fence," and supported "Social Security and Medicare benefits for illegals."
In this item, we'll be checking the claim that McCain opposed the border fence.
The ad cites McCain's vote on an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2007. Introduced by Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, it would have provided an additional $1.8 billion to "construct double-layered fencing and vehicle barriers along the southwest border." It also called for offsetting increased funding for the fence "by reducing all other discretionary amounts on a prorata basis."
We checked Senate voting records and found that McCain voted against the amendment. He was joined by several other Republican lawmakers, and the amendment was rejected.
Still, it is a gross exaggeration to make the leap that voting "nay" on a single amendment translates into opposing the construction of a fence on the border. McCain voted for the final version of the bill signed into law by President George W. Bush on Oct. 4, 2006. "The bill I sign helps us address one of the central issues facing all states, but particularly a state like Arizona, and that's illegal immigration. I understand full well that illegal immigration puts pressure on the public schools and hospitals. It strains state and local budgets. In some communities, it increases crime. The administration and Congress have been taking decisive steps to address this issue," Bush said before signing the bill.
According to the president's remarks, the legislation appropriated $1.2 billion for strengthening the border. More specifically, it provided funding for more border fencing, vehicle barriers, and "cutting-edge technology" such as ground-based radar, infrared cameras and advanced sensors.
Even more telling, however, is what happened three weeks later. On Oct. 26, 2006, President Bush signed The Secure Fence Act of of 2006. This separate legislation, which had solid Republican support, authorized the construction of a 700-mile, double-layered fence on the U.S.-Mexico border. McCain not only voted for the bill, but the New York Times referred to him as one of the "Republican architects" of the legislation. That's hard to square with the anti-border enforcement candidate that Hayworth's ad describes. (We first learned about the New York Times article, along with a few other sources which we double-checked, from our friends over at FactCheck.org)
Why did so many Republicans, including McCain, vote against an amendment to increase funding for the fence construction? According to Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who also voted "nay" on the amendment, the extra funding would have been offset with cuts elsewhere in the bill, which would have meant not being able to hire 750 new border-patrol agents.
Hayworth's ad claims that McCain opposed the border fence. As "proof," Hayworth cited McCain's vote on an amendment that would have provided increased funding for the construction of a double-layered fence on the U.S.-Mexico border. What the ad conveniently left out, however, is that McCain voted for the final bill, which provided $1.2 billion for strengthening the border. It also ignored McCain's key role in securing the passage of The Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized construction of a 700-mile fence on the border. Finally, it neglected to mention that the defeated amendment would have been paid for with cuts from other parts of the 2007 Homeland Security appropriations bill. Republican leaders -- who voted with McCain -- say that adopting the amendment would have resulted in cutbacks in hiring new border patrol agents. The ad is technically right that McCain voted against additional funding at one point. Still, we found that the claim is a gross exaggeration, so we rate it False.
YouTube, McCain, "I chose lying", by JDforSenate, Aug. 5, 2010
E-mail interview, Abe Sisson, McCain campaign representative, Aug. 4, 2010
FactCheck.org, Hayworth Distorts McCain’s Immigration Record — Again, Aug. 4, 2010
Department of Homeland Security, President Signs FY 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations, Oct. 4, 2006
The White House, President Bush Signs Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, Oct. 4, 2006
The White House, Fact Sheet: The Secure Fence Act of 2006, October 26, 2006
The New York Times, Senate Moves Toward Action On Fence on Mexican Border, by Rachel Swarns, Sept. 29, 2009
U.S. Senate, vote summary for Senate Amendment 4659, accessed Aug. 5, 2010
The Washington Times, Senate denies funds for new border fence, Jul. 14, 2006
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