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John McCain on Tax Reform

Republican nominee for President; Senior Senator (AZ)


Tap unused stimulus funds to declare a payroll tax holiday

McCain said he would tap unused stimulus funds to declare a payroll tax holiday and said the tax cuts made under President George W. Bush need to be extended before they expire at the end of the year.

"To raise taxes on anybody in America today, with the tough economic times we're in, is foolishness," McCain said.

Source: Arizona Daily Star coverage of 2010 Arizona Senate debate , Sep 27, 2010

Keep tax rates the same; let’s not raise anybody’s taxes

McCAIN: Nailing down Sen. Obama’s various tax proposals is like nailing Jell-O to the wall. But he wants to raise taxes. My friends, the last president to raise taxes during tough economic times was Herbert Hoover, and he practiced protectionism as well, which I’m sure he’ll get to at some point. You know, last year up to this time, we’ve lost 700,000 jobs in America. The only bright spot is that over 300,000 jobs have been created by small businesses. Sen. Obama’s secret that you don’t know is that his tax increases will increase taxes on 50% of small business revenue. Small businesses across America will have to cut jobs and will have their taxes increase and won’t be able to hire because of Sen. Obama’s tax policies. I am not in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy. I am in favor of leaving the tax rates alone. Let’s not raise anybody’s taxes.

OBAMA: I want to provide a tax cut for 95% of Americans. The vast majority of small businesses would get a tax cut under my plan.

Source: 2008 second presidential debate against Barack Obama , Oct 7, 2008

FactCheck: Obama voted for taxes 76 times, not 94 times

McCain exaggerated Obama’s votes to increase taxes. McCain said, “Sen. Obama has voted 94 times to either increase your taxes or against tax cuts. That’s his record.”

Previously, McCain said Obama voted 94 times to increase taxes, which is way off. He’s now saying it’s 94 votes either for increased taxes or against tax cuts. But that’s still misleading. 18 of the votes were for lowering taxes for most people while increasing them on a few.

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 second presidential debate , Oct 7, 2008

Worst thing in bad economic climate is to raise taxes

OBAMA: McCain is proposing $300 billion in tax cuts to some of the wealthiest corporations & individuals in the country. Now $18 billion is important; but $300 billion is really important. In his tax plan, you would have CEOs of Fortune 500 companies getting an average of $700,000 in reduced taxes, while leaving 100 million Americans out. So my attitude is we’ve got to grow the economy from the bottom up. What I’ve called for is a tax cut for 95% of working families.

McCAIN: Obama didn’t mention that along with his tax cuts he is also proposing some $800 billion in new spending on new programs. That’s the fundamental difference between myself and Obama. I want to cut spending. I want to keep taxes low. The worst thing we could do in this economic climate is to raise people’s taxes.

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain , Sep 26, 2008

Double the child tax exemption from $3,500 to $7,000

We all know that keeping taxes low helps small businesses grow and create new jobs. Cutting the second-highest business tax rate in the world will help American companies compete and keep jobs from going overseas. Doubling the child tax exemption from $3,500 to $7,000 will improve the lives of millions of American families.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

FactCheck: $7,000-per-child tax EXEMPTION, not tax CREDIT

McCain made his tax plan sound way too generous to middle-income taxpayers, incorrectly describing one of his own proposals. McCain said, “Let’s give every family in America a $7,000 tax credit for every child they have.”

McCain was badly wrong in what he said about the child “tax credit.” The current child tax credit is $1,000, and McCain is not proposing any increase at all. What McCain actually is proposing is a gradual increase in the $3,500 exemption for each dependent child, starting in 2010 and increasing $500 each year until it reaches $7,000 in 2016. The distinction between a tax credit and a tax exemption is both basic and significant. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of tax owed. An exemption is much less valuable to taxpayers, as it merely reduces the amount of income subject to tax. An exemption is also more valuable to upper-income taxpayers, who fall into higher tax brackets, than to middle- and lower-income taxpayers.

Source: FactCheck.org analysis of 2008 Saddleback joint appearance , Aug 16, 2008

Double the personal tax exemption for every dependent

We will preserve the current low rates as they are, so businesses large and small can hire more people. We will double the personal exemption from $3,500 to $7,000 for every dependent, in every family in America. And we will lower the business tax rate, so American companies open new plants and create more jobs in this country, instead of going overseas to flee the second-highest tax rate in the world.
Source: McCain-Obama speeches at 99th NAACP Convention , Jul 12, 2008

Terrible mistake to raise taxes during an economic downturn

We meet after another week of rising gasoline prices, another stock market sell-off, more mortgage foreclosures and the increasing loss of the American people’s confidence in the economy. The question of how government should respond to these troubling developments will shape much of the debate in this election.

It is a terrible mistake to raise taxes during an economic downturn. Increasing the tax burden on Americans impedes job growth, discourages innovation and makes us less competitive. Small businesses are the biggest job creators in our economy. Keeping individual tax rates low isn’t intended as a favor to wealthy Americans. Most small business owners pay those rates, and taking more money from them deprives them of the capital they need to invest and grow and hire. The first consideration we should have when debating tax policy is how we can help those companies grow and increase the prosperity of the millions of American families whose economic security depends on their success.

Source: Obama & McCain back-to-back speeches at NALEO , Jun 28, 2008

Veto any tax increase; worst thing now is to raise taxes

Q: As president, will you veto any tax increase passed by a Democratic Congress?

A: Yes. I think the worst thing we can do right now--we’ve got some shaky economic times--is to increase people’s taxes. And I think that what we need is more tax cuts. We need to make Bush tax cuts permanent. We need to get rid of the AMT. We need to cut corporate taxes. We need to give people reasons to write off and depreciation their business investments and equipment investments.

Source: 2008 Fox News interview: “Choosing the President” series , Feb 3, 2008

2001: tax package with spending restraint, against Bush cuts

Q: You’ve been justifying your vote against the 2001 Bush tax cut by saying, “they didn’t have spending cuts along with it.” But before the final vote, you said: “I cannot support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief.” You never once mentioned that there weren’t spending cuts.

A: I mentioned it many, many times. And I had a tax cut package of my own which also included restraints in spending.

Q: But in 2001, you voted for a tax cut that was targeted more at the middle class, and you voted against the tax cut when it tilted more toward the wealthy. Don’t you sound a little bit like Obama or Clinton on that?

A: I don’t think so. Back in 1984, when I first came to the Congress as a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution, I was one of those who fought hard for tax cuts, and we were able to get them. And after that we had one of the greatest periods of economic prosperity in history.

Source: 2008 Fox News interview: “Choosing the President” series , Feb 3, 2008

Require a 3/5 majority vote in Congress to raise taxes

Source: Campaign plan: “Bold Solutions for Economic Prosperity” , Feb 3, 2008

FactCheck: Against Bush tax cuts in 2003; for them in 2006

McCain spoke as though he had always supported Bush’s tax cuts, saying, “I think it’s very important that we make the Bush tax cuts permanent. I voted to make them permanent twice already.”

It is true that McCain voted in 2006 to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. But he was against the cuts before he was for them, and his statements in the debate dismiss that fact. McCain voted against both sets of Bush tax cuts, in 2001 and in 2003. And on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in 2004, McCain stated that he did not support extending all the cuts, though he did go on to say that he would make the so-called “middle class” tax cuts permanent.

McCain is entitled to change his mind. And in fact, his opinions are not necessarily contradictory; he may believe that the tax cuts he opposed should now be made permanent so that taxpayers know what to expect. But his statements in the debate could lead voters to believe that he has always supported the cuts, and that’s simply not true

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 GOP debate in Boca Raton Florida , Jan 24, 2008

Romney raising fees a quarter-billion dollars is a tax hike

Q: Do you believe Romney raising fees a quarter-billion dollars is equivalent to raising taxes?

A: I’m sure those people that had to pay it did.

Source: 2008 GOP debate in Boca Raton Florida , Jan 24, 2008

Opposed to the Bush tax cuts as spending got out of control

I voted on the tax cuts because I knew that unless we had spending under control, we were going to face a disaster. We let spending get completely out of control. Those tax cuts have to remain permanent, otherwise people experience a tax increase. We let spending get out of control. We presided over the biggest increase in the size of government that with--since the “Great Society.” We let it get out of control. I we had had the spending restraints that I proposed, we would be talking about more tax cuts today. We would be talking about more tax cuts. The trust and confidence in our base was eroded. I will restore that trust and confidence because I will restrain spending along with further tax cuts. I’m very proud of my record. If you look at those organizations that grade people, my record is very, very high for a consistent record of being a fiscal conservative. But I’m going to stop the pork barrel spending, and we’re not going to have any more “Bridges to Nowhere.”
Source: 2008 GOP debate in Boca Raton Florida , Jan 24, 2008

Supported Reagan tax cuts because matched by spending cuts

ROMNEY: [to McCain]: One of the great lessons for Ronald Reagan was that lowering taxes helped built our economy. But Senator McCain was one of two Republicans who voted against the Bush tax cuts.

McCAIN: When I first came to Congress, we were in the middle of the Reagan revolution, and I was proud to be a foot soldier in that revolution. And we cut taxes. But we cut spending. And Ronald Reagan insisted that we cut spending, because he knew that it was vital, if we were going to keep the deficit down and not have the fiscal difficulties we have today, we had to cut spending. I’m proud to have supported those tax cuts. And I believe that if we had done what I wanted to do--cut taxes and, at the same time, cut spending--we’d be talking about more tax cuts today. But we let spending get out of control. Unfortunately, we betrayed one of the principles of the Republican Party. I’m in favor of tax cuts. We’ll do them. But we’ll cut spending when I’m president.

Source: 2008 Fox News NH Republican primary debate , Jan 6, 2008

Reform the tax code that nobody trusts and believes in

I’m happy to say low-income Americans, except for payroll taxes, don’t pay taxes, but we’ve got to reform the tax code. Nobody understands it. Nobody trusts it. Nobody believes in it. And we have to fix it. And we can’t raise taxes as our Democrat friends want. So I don’t know exactly who’s paying the most of the burden, but I would say that the American people need a tax code they can understand and that they know is fair.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Republican Debate , Dec 12, 2007

We need a simpler, fairer tax code, but not FairTax

Q: Do you support the elimination of the federal income tax in favor of a national retail sales tax, also known as the FairTax?

A: I do not, and I think we should look very carefully at it. Obviously, we need a simpler, fairer tax code. If Congress can’t fix the tax code, give me the job and I’ll fix it.

Source: 2007 GOP YouTube debate in St. Petersburg, Florida , Nov 28, 2007

Tax system is fair; wealthy pay bulk of taxes

Q: Wall Street executives are making millions, paying tax rates of 15%, while the average guy is paying 30% in taxes. Is this system fair?

A: Everybody’s paying taxes, and wealth creates wealth. A vibrant economy creates wealth. Revenues are at an all-time high.

Q: So you’re saying the system is fair?

A: Sure it’s fair. The bulk of the taxes are paid by wealthy people. Should we reform our tax code? Absolutely we should fix our tax code, and we should fix it immediately.

Source: 2007 Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan , Oct 9, 2007

Opposed Bush tax cuts in 2001 & 2003; but now extend them

On taxes, McCain voted against President Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts on grounds of fiscal "sanity," warning as recently as 2004 against the folly of providing "tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens" at the expense of the "American taxpayer," but is now in favor of extending them indefinitely. As he tried to explain to George Stephanopoulos in June 2007, "The tax cuts were enacted. I was for tax cuts. I wasn't for those. But to be against maintaining them, of course, would be the effect tax increases."
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.183 , Oct 9, 2007

Won’t sign no-tax pledge; focus on cutting spending

Q: Six of your colleagues on this stage have signed the pledge of the Americans for Tax Reform to oppose any increase in marginal tax rates. Why have you refused to sign?

A: Because I stand on my record. And my record is 24 years of opposing tax increases. And I opposed them & I’ll continue to oppose them. But my proposal in 2000 & 2001 was not just to cut taxes but to stop spending. We allowed spending to get out of control to the point where it bred corruption. I pledge to the American people, I will veto every pork barrel bill that comes across my desk. And I will make the authors of those pork barrel projects famous.

Q: Why not, if you are determined to not raise taxes, why not sign the pledge?

A: Because there’s no point. I stand on my record. I don’t have to sign pledges. We had automatic restraints in spending included in my tax-cut package, [but we Republicans] let spending get out of control and preside over the largest increase in the size of government since the Great Society.

Source: 2007 GOP debate at UNH, sponsored by Fox News , Sep 5, 2007

Make tax reform commission & vote yes-or-no on outcome

Q: The FairTax would eliminate the income tax, estate tax, payroll tax and capital gains tax and replace it with a 23% sales tax. Do you support it?

A: I believe that we’ve got to simplify the tax code. But one of the first areas we’ve got to go after is the alternate minimum tax, which is going to eat in to 20 million American families if we don’t eliminate it, and very quickly. Look, when we found out that Congress could not close a single military base when we had a huge number of them, we appointed a commission and they said we would close so many bases, and Congress votes up or down. I would find [someone like former Federal Reserve Chairman] Alan Greenspan. I’d say, “Give us your recommendations.” We’ll pass a law, and we will vote on Alan Greenspan and his commission’s recommendations, yes or no, up or down. That’s the way you’re going to simplify the tax code, which now requires $140 billion of American families’ income to prepare their tax returns.

Source: 2007 GOP Iowa Straw Poll debate , Aug 5, 2007

FactCheck: Families spend $20B on tax prep, not $140B

McCain overstated what “families” spend to prepare their taxes. McCain said, “The tax code now requires $140 billion of American families’ income to prepare their tax returns.”

McCain’s campaign said that the senator was drawing his figures from a 2005 report by the President’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform. The panel cited a total compliance cost of $140 billion. But that figure wasn’t just for “families,” it included individual and business taxes. The cost attributed to individuals was $65 billion. And even that figure is not an estimate for the amount of “American families’ income” spent to prepare taxes, but assigned a dollar value to preparation time. The IRS calculates time burden separately from cash outlay. For 2000, it puts the latter at $19 billion, a fraction of the figure McCain used.

McCain would have been correct to say that it is estimated that American families spend more than $20 billion of their income on preparing tax returns, plus hours of their valuable time.

Source: FactCheck on 2007 GOP Iowa Straw Poll debate , Aug 5, 2007

Opposed Bush tax cuts, but must extend them now

Q: In 2003, I asked you, “Do you believe the president should hold off any future tax cuts until we have a sense of the costs of the war?” You responded, “Yes, I do. I believe that until we find out the costs of this war and the reconstruction that we should hold off on tax cuts.”

A: Mm-hmm.

In 2004, I again asked you about opposing the Bush tax cuts, and you said, “I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportional amount that went to the wealthiest Americans. I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order to help address the deficit.“ But now you voted to extend them.

A: I voted to extend them because it would have the effect of having a tax increase. The tax cuts have increased revenues enormously. They’ve been very beneficial. The problem is that spending has lurched completely out of control. My proposal was to restrain spending. I do not support tax increases. And the effect of not making them permanent would have the effect of a tax increase.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series , May 13, 2007

New tax cuts account for contingencies and over-spending

Q: You now support extending President Bush’s tax cuts. But you originally voted against them?

A: Because in the proposal that I had, there were significant tax cuts. And the thing that bothered me was that there was no provision to start addressing a contingency. We had a contingency called the Iraq war. And we had no restraint on spending. Yes, these tax cuts needs to be made permanent. Otherwise they will have the effect of a tax increase. But spending is destroying the future of this country.

Source: 2007 GOP primary debate, at Reagan library, hosted by MSNBC , May 3, 2007

Alternative minimum tax is eating Americans alive

Q: In addition to the Bush tax cut, name a tax you’d like to cut.

A: The alternative minimum tax is obviously eating Americans alive, and it’s got to be repealed. Another one I think is important is a $3,000 tax credit for people to be able to purchase health insurance. So low-income Americans will have access to health care, which is an amazing and difficult problem today. And a simpler, flatter, fair tax so that Americans don’t have to spend $140 billion to prepare their tax returns.

Source: 2007 GOP primary debate, at Reagan library, hosted by MSNBC , May 3, 2007

Bush tax cuts fiscally reckless & favored rich;but keep them

Q: You were one of two Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts in 2001, one of three Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts two years later. At that time, you said that they were fiscally reckless and that they favored the rich. Now you say you would not allow the tax cuts to expire. Is that a flip-flop?

A: No, because it would have the effect of a tax increase, and I don’t support tax increases. The fact is that in 2000 I had a proposal that restrained spending. I voted against those tax cuts because there was no restraint of spending, and spending lurched out of control completely.

Q: President McCain, no new taxes?

A: Of course not. I’ve never supported tax increases. I don’t support them now.

Q: And that’s a pledge that you would make over your four years?

A: I don’t take pledges. The fact is my record is very clear of opposition to tax increases. I oppose tax increases. I don’t take pledges.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews , Apr 2, 2007

Consistent on focusing tax cuts more toward middle class

When the President’s tax bill was pending before the Senate in May 2001, McCain offered an amendment to lower the top rate by a smaller amount and use the savings to give more relief to the middle class. Inevitably, some Republicans said he was showboating, but in fact this was his position during his 2000 campaign, in which he refused to outbid Bush (who had the mistaken impression that NH would embrace his larger tax cuts). The amendment failed on a surprising 49-49 tie vote--the closest anyone had come to overturning the basics of the pending bill.

McCain then warned that if the final bill lowered the top rate any further from the Senate number of 36%, at the expense of the middle class, he would vote against the final bill; when it came back with a top rate of 35%, he did so. It was a bold thing to vote against the president’s highest priority, and some of McCain’s staff worried about the consequences for his standing within his party, but he decided to stick to his own beliefs.

Source: Citizen McCain, by Elizabeth Drew, p. 73-74 , May 7, 2002

Tax plan: $238B over 5 years; $500B over 10 years

McCain’s tax cut plan is valued at $238 billion over five years; and $500 billion over 10 years. Its centerpiece is an expansion of the lowest income tax bracket, the 15% bracket, to cover higher incomes.

Under the plan, the ceiling for the 15% bracket would rise to $70,000 from $43,050 for married couples filing jointly, and to $35,000 from $25,750 for single taxpayers. The effect is to give a $3,504 tax cut to a couple with taxable income of $70,000 or more.

Source: New York Times, p. 22 , Feb 27, 2000

Double child tax credit; add family incentives

McCain’s tax plan would double the child tax credit to $1,000 a year, expand tax incentives for savings and investment, reduce the tax on large estates, and reduce the marriage penalty for some people increasing the standard deduction for couples. McCain would offset a portion of the tax cuts by closing corporate tax loopholes. One analysis shows most tax cuts would go to the middle class, those earning between $39,000 & $130,000. The plan would do almost nothing for taxpayers with incomes below $39,000.
Source: New York Times, p. 22 , Feb 27, 2000

“Balanced approach”, and starts a flat tax system

McCain’s pitch is that his tax cut plan is modest enough in size that it leaves plenty of money from the surplus tax revenues to deal with other needs. By expanding the 15% bracket to cover millions of additional taxpayers, he says, his plan amounts to a start on creating a system of flatter tax rates.

“I want a balanced approach,” McCain says. “I put a whole lot of money into Social Security, Medicaid, and paying down the debt [and less] money into tax cuts.”

Source: New York Times, p. 22 , Feb 27, 2000

Reagan Republican: simplify taxes; cut waste

Source: Television ad, “Proud Reagan Republican” , Feb 26, 2000

Big money interests fear closing loopholes

McCain said that his proposal to eliminate provisions in the tax code that enable corporate investors to write off billions of dollars in deductions had “met with fierce opposition” from big-money interests. And, as he presses the case against loopholes in his campaign, he said the mood in that monied “establishment has gone from concern to fear.” McCain added, “Loopholes. make the tax code 44,000 pages long. And everybody agrees [it] is a cornucopia of good deals for special interests and a nightmare for average citizens.“ McCain said there was a ”direct relation“ between his tax proposal and his efforts to limit special interests’ influence in campaign finance. ”These people,“ he said, ”clearly have an excessive, inordinate influence.“
Source: Boston Globe, p. A31 , Jan 30, 2000

Remove charitable deduction; it only benefits rich

McCain’s tax plan could cause charities, universities, & art museums to lose as much as $9 billion over 5 years, the Bush campaign charged. “Anything that would take money away from a charity is a step in the wrong direction,” Bush’s spokesman said.

According to McCain’s plan, people who give charitable contributions in the form of stock, real estate, bonds, or artwork could no longer take a tax deduction for the current, appreciated value of the gift. Instead, the donor could take a deduction only for the original cost of the asset. The McCain campaign describes this as closing a loophole for the very rich, while the Bush campaign says it would kill off incentives for giving.

“Wealthy Americans shouldn’t get a tax write-off for contributing a fancy painting or an overvalued stock,” said McCain’s spokesman. “Bush is protecting his wealthy donor base at the expense of the middle class.” By eliminating the deduction, the spokesman said, 25,000 additional working-class people would get a tax cut.

Source: Boston Globe, p. A12 , Jan 22, 2000

Replace employer-provided benefits with a tax cut

Q: As part of your plan to pay for your tax cuts, you say we ought to eliminate what’s called employer-provided benefits to workers. Isn’t that a $40 billion tax increase? A: For the first time since President Eisenhower, we got a surplus and the question is what do you want to do with it? I want to give it to low- and middle-income Americans as a tax cut. I want to give them the benefits from this that they need that lower- and middle-income Americans need.
Source: GOP Debate in Johnston, Iowa , Jan 16, 2000

Middle-class tax cut: expand 15% tax bracket

McCain will present today his first comprehensive plan for apportioning the spoils of the nation’s current prosperity, calling for a middle-class tax cut. The plan’s centerpiece is in expansion of the 15% income tax bracket, the lowest, to cover higher income levels. It would also double the child credit, to $1,000, reduce the so-called marriage penalty paid by many two-income couples, create new tax incentives for savings, and cut the inheritance taxes on multi-million dollar estates.

His tax plan largely tracks a proposal he made last summer. New details include a proposal to pay for much of his tax cut by closing $150 billion worth of specific corporate tax loopholes over the next 5 years. Under McCain’s plan, the ceiling for the 15% tax bracket would rise to $70,000 for couples filing jointly and to $35,000 for single people. Its primary benefits would therefore go to people currently in the 28% tax bracket, couples earning over $43,050 and single people earning over $25,750

Source: New York Times, p. A21 , Jan 11, 2000

Don’t promise tax cuts from future surpluses we may not have

McCAIN [to Bush]: I’m more concerned about the surplus gap [than Bush’s phrase, the “tax gap”]. It’s fiscally irresponsible to promise a huge tax cut that is based on a surplus that we may not have. My tax plan. is about the same as yours for middle-income and lower-income Americans. It places a top priority on saving Social Security. It offers a needed tax break for middle-income people and it begins paying down the national debt.

BUSH: In human terms, [a couple earning] $42,000 a year in income, under [McCain’s] plan, will receive a $200 tax cut. Under the plan that I proposed, they receive an $1,852 tax cut. The fundamental difference is that the additional $1,600 will go to Washington under your idea. And under my idea it goes into people’s pockets. There is enough money to take care of Social Security. There’s enough money to meet the basic needs of our government and there is enough money to give the American people a substantial tax cut.

Source: Republican Debate in West Columbia, SC , Jan 7, 2000

1st step to simplify taxes: close special interest loopholes

FORBES [to McCain]: Cutting the capital gains tax is key to a prosperous future. In New Hampshire you indicated support for a flat tax and I was wondering if you might put flesh on those bones and tell us what you have in mind for tax reform?

MCCAIN: I want to thank you for your efforts on behalf of a flat tax. I think we’ve got to eliminate the marriage penalty, the earnings test, raise the 15% tax bracket, put a level of $5 million on the inheritance tax. But this tax code is 44,000 pages long. It’s an abomination. It’s a cornucopia of good deals for the special interests and it’s a nightmare for American citizens. We’ve got to get rid of the special interest loopholes that are right in this tax code. That’s the first step in cleaning it up to reach your goal of a simplified tax system. I appreciate your efforts. But until the day arrives when we remove the influence of the special interests, we’re not going to be able to achieve your goal.

Source: (cross-ref. from Forbes) Phoenix Arizona GOP Debate , Dec 7, 1999

Supports flat tax; stop complexity by special interests

Q: Do you favor a flat tax? A: Sure, I’m for a flat tax. I’m for a tax system where average Americans can fill out their tax return on a postcard and send it in and not have the fear of an audit. But do you know why the tax code is 44,000 pages long? Do you know why it’s a nightmare, a chamber of horrors for average citizens and a cornucopia of good deals for the special interests? It’s because every time we pass a tax bill we add another special loophole and a special deal for the special interests.
Source: Republican Debate at Dartmouth College , Oct 29, 1999

Keep lump-sum earned income tax credit

McCain said that Congress shouldn’t “tamper with a much-needed tax credit for working Americans” and suggested cutting special interest subsidies would be a better way to meet budget targets. McCain called the proposal an “accounting gimmick” to produce $8 billion in savings by spreading the earned income tax credit over 12 monthly payments rather than the lump sum now paid with tax refunds. “If our goal is to have lower-income Americans lifted up into the middle class, this is the wrong way to do it.”
Source: Will Lester, AP/LA Times , Oct 1, 1999

Cut marriage tax, inheritance tax, & earnings test

Source: Candidacy Declaration Speech, Nashua NH , Sep 27, 1999

Taxes should be flatter, lower, and simpler

McCain believes the vast majority of Americans pay an excessive amount of their hard-earned income and accumulated wealth in taxes -- at all levels of government. McCain [believes] that tax relief and smaller government go hand-in-hand. He is committed to creating a better tax system, which is flatter, fairer, and only taxes income one time. It should be simple and reduce the time and money needed to prepare tax returns, from days to minutes, and from thousands of dollars to pennies.
Source: www.mccain2000.com/ “Position Papers” 5/24/99 , Apr 30, 1999


John McCain on Voting Record

GovWatch: 2001: against tax cut that went to rich

Top McCain Flip Flops: #1. Taxes:

McCain was one of two Republican senators to vote against the Bush tax cuts of 2001, saying that he could not support a tax cut that went to rich Americans rather than middle class Americans. He now favors making the tax cuts permanent.

Source: GovWatch on 2008 campaign: “Top Ten Flip-Flops” , Feb 5, 2008

Voting against Bush cuts then for them: not a mistake

Q: Mitt Romney says in a TV ad about you, “He voted against the Bush tax cuts. Higher taxes: that’s straight talk for being in Washington too long.” You did vote against the Bush tax cuts in 2001 & 2003, and you said, “We can’t afford tax cuts for the fortunate at the expense of the middle class who need tax relief.”

A: I also said that the major reason why I was opposed to it was because there was no spending cuts. Reagan had tax cuts, but we had spending cuts that went right along with it.

Q: But you voted the third time for the tax cuts, but there weren’t spending cuts.

A: No, but I thought that we ought to keep the tax cuts permanent, because if I had voted in the other way, that would have had the effect of increasing taxes.

Q: Do you believe that voting against the Bush tax cuts was a mistake?

A: Of course not.

Q: Bob Novak wrote in his column, “McCain has admitted to me that those tax votes were a mistake.”

A: I can’t account for Bob Novak’s comments or anybody else’s comments

Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series , Jan 6, 2008

Voted against Bush tax cuts for not reining in spending

Q: You opposed President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts. Now you say you were wrong. How can you convince Republican voters you will push a Democratic Congress hard enough to make those tax cuts permanent?

A: I didn’t say that I was wrong. I said that the reason why I opposed those tax cuts was because we didn’t rein in spending. And the fact is the tax cuts have dramatically increased revenues. If we don’t make them permanent, then every business, farm and family in America will have to adjust their budgets to what is in effect a tax increase.

In 2001, I proposed massive tax cuts, but I also proposed to rein in spending. Spending is out of control. We didn’t lose the 2006 election because of the war in Iraq; we lost it because we in the Republican Party came to Washington to change government and government changed us. We let spending go out of control. We spent money like a drunken sailor, although I never knew a sailor drunk or sober with the imagination of my colleagues.

Source: 2007 Republican Debate in South Carolina , May 15, 2007

Voted YES on allowing AMT reduction without budget offset.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY:To exempt from pay-as-you-go enforcement modifications to the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) that prevent millions of additional taxpayers from having to pay the AMT.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. GRASSLEY: The Senate voted to make sure that middle-class America didn't pay the AMT, and we did it without an offset, by a vote of [about 95%]. So here we are again with an opportunity to say to middle-class America that we are not going to tax the people who were not supposed to be hit by the AMT. This amendment gives us an opportunity to get over that hurdle that is in this budget resolution that, under pay-go, you would have to have an offset for the AMT. Unless my amendment is adopted, the 25 million families who will be hit by the AMT increase will get a tax increase of over $2,000 apiece. They deserve a guarantee of relief.OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. CONRAD: If you want to blow a hole in the budget as big as all outdoors, here is your opportunity--a trillion dollars not paid for, a trillion dollars that we are going to go out and borrow from the Chinese and Japanese. That makes absolutely no sense. I urge my colleagues to vote no.LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 47-51

Reference: Bill S.Amdt.4276 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S078 on Mar 13, 2008

Voted YES on raising the Death Tax exemption to $5M from $1M.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY:To protect small businesses, family ranches and farms from the Death Tax by providing a $5 million exemption, a low rate for smaller estates and a maximum rate no higher than 35%.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. KYL: This amendment is a reprise of what we did last year in offering to reform the estate tax, sometimes referred to as the death tax. Now, in the budget itself, there is a provision to allow the death tax to be changed from the current law to a top rate of 45% and an exempted amount of $3.5 million, and there are some other features. My amendment would reduce that top rate to no higher than 35% so that if you had more than one rate, at least the top rate could not exceed 35%, and both of the two spouses would have a $5 million exempted amount before the estate tax would kick in. Now, the reason for my amendment is: current law [is] getting up to a high rate of 55% and an exempted amount of either $2 million or $1 million, probably $1 million--a continued unfair burden on primarily America's small businesses and farms.

OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. CONRAD: This amendment would virtually eliminate the estate tax. Let me say why. Let me first say there is no death tax in the country. Of course, if you poll people and you ask them: Do you want to eliminate the death tax? they will say sure. But you are not going to pay any tax when you die unless you have $2 million. There is no death tax in America. There is a tax on estates. At today's level of $2 million, that affects only 0.5% of estates. When the exemption reaches $3.5 million in 2009, 0.2% of estates will be taxed. If the amendment is agreed to, we would be borrowing money in the name of 99.8% of the American people, borrowing primarily from China & Japan, to give it to the Warren Buffets, the Paris Hiltons, & others of enormous wealth in this country.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 50-50

Reference: Kyl Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.4191 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S050 on Feb 13, 2008

Voted YES on repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Amendment would accommodate the full repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax, preventing 23 million families and individuals from being subject to the AMT in 2007, and millions of families and individuals in subsequent years.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

This amendment repeals the AMT. Except for the telephone tax, the alternative minimum tax is the phoniest tax we have ever passed. The AMT, in 1969, was meant to hit 155 taxpayers who used legal means to avoid taxation, under the theory that everybody ought to pay some income tax.

This very year, more than 2,000 people who are very wealthy are not paying any income tax or alternative minimum income tax. So it is not even working and hitting the people it is supposed to hit. Right now, this year, 2007, the year we are in, there are 23 million families that are going to be hit by this tax. It is a phony revenue machine, over 5 years, $467 billion dollars. We are going to have to have a point of order this year to keep these 23 million taxpayers from paying this tax. We might as well do away with it right now, once and for all, and be honest about it.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

The reality of the budget resolution is this may not have anything to do with eliminating the alternative minimum tax. The one thing it will do is reduce the revenue of the Government over the next 5 years by $533 billion, plunging us right back into deficit. Look, we can deal with the AMT. We have dealt with it in the underlying budget resolution for the next 2 years. There will be no increase in the number of people affected by the AMT for the next 2 years under the budget resolution, and that is paid for. Unfortunately, this amendment is not paid for. It would plunge us back into deficit. I urge my colleagues to vote no.

Reference: Grassley Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.471 on S.Con.Res.21 ; vote number 2007-108 on Mar 23, 2007

Voted YES on raising estate tax exemption to $5 million.

An amendment to raise the death tax exemption to $5 million; reducing the maximum death tax rate to 35%; and to promote economic growth by extending the lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

It is disappointing to many family businesses and farm owners to set the death tax rate at what I believe is a confiscatory 45% and set the exemption at only $3.5 million, which most of us believe is too low. This leaves more than 22,000 families subject to the estate tax each year.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

You can extend all the tax breaks that have been described in this amendment if you pay for them. The problem with the amendment is that over $70 billion is not paid for. It goes on the deficit, which will drive the budget right out of balance. We will be going right back into the deficit ditch. Let us resist this amendment. People could support it if it was paid for, but it is not. However well intended the amendment is, it spends $72.5 billion with no offset. This amendment blows the budget. This amendment takes us from a balance in 2012 right back into deficit. My colleagues can extend those tax cuts if they pay for them, if they offset them. This amendment does not pay for them; it does not offset them; it takes us back into deficit. It ought to be defeated.

Reference: Kyl Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.507 on S.Con.Res.21 ; vote number 2007-083 on Mar 21, 2007

Voted YES on supporting permanence of estate tax cuts.

Increases the estate tax exclusion to $5,000,000, effective 2015, and repeals the sunset provision for the estate and generation-skipping taxes. Lowers the estate tax rate to equal the current long-term capital gains tax rate (i.e., 15% through 2010) for taxable estates up to $25 million. Repeals after 2009 the estate tax deduction paid to states.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

The permanent solution to the death tax challenge that we have today is a compromise. It is a compromise that prevents the death rate from escalating to 55% and the exclusion dropping to $1 million in 2011. It also includes a minimum wage increase, 40% over the next 3 years. Voting YES is a vote for that permanent death tax relief. Voting YES is for that extension of tax relief. Voting YES is for that 40% minimum wage increase. This gives us the opportunity to address an issue that will affect the typical American family, farmers, & small business owners.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Family businesses and family farms should not be broken up to pay taxes. With the booming economy of the 1990s, many more Americans joined the ranks of those who could face estate taxes. Raising the exemption level and lowering the rate in past legislation made sense. Under current law, in my State of Delaware, fewer than 50 families will face any estate tax in 2009. I oppose this legislation's complete repeal of the estate tax because it will cost us $750 billion. Given the world we live in today, with clear domestic needs unmet, full repeal is a luxury that we cannot afford.

To add insult to this injury, the first pay raise for minimum wage workers in 10 years is now hostage to this estate tax cut. We are told that to get those folks on minimum wage a raise, we have to go into debt, so that the sons and daughters of the 7,000 most fortunate families among us will be spared the estate tax. We must say no to this transparent gimmick.

Reference: Estate Tax and Extension of Tax Relief Act; Bill H.R. 5970 ; vote number 2006-229 on Aug 3, 2006

Voted YES on permanently repealing the `death tax`.

A cloture motion ends debate and forces a vote on the issue. In this case, voting YES implies support for permanently repealing the death tax. Voting against cloture would allow further amendments. A cloture motion requires a 3/5th majority to pass. This cloture motion failed, and there was therefore no vote on repealing the death tax.
Reference: Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act; Bill HR 8 ; vote number 2006-164 on Jun 8, 2006

Voted NO on $47B for military by repealing capital gains tax cut.

To strengthen America's military, to repeal the extension of tax rates for capital gains and dividends, to reduce the deficit, and for other purposes. Specifically, a YES vote would appropriate $47 billion to the military and would pay for it by repealing the extension of tax cuts for capital gains and dividends to 2010 back to 2008. The funds wuold be used as follows:
Reference: Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act; Bill S Amdt 2737 to HR 4297 ; vote number 2006-008 on Feb 2, 2006

Voted YES on retaining reduced taxes on capital gains & dividends.

Vote to reduce federal spending by $56.1 billion over five years by retaining a reduced tax rate on capital gains and dividends, as well as.
Status: Bill passed Bill passed, 66-31
Reference: Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act; Bill HR 4297 ; vote number 2006-010 on Feb 2, 2006

Voted YES on extending the tax cuts on capital gains and dividends.

This large piece of legislation (418 pages) includes numerous provisions, generally related to extending the tax cuts initiated by President Bush. This vote was on final passage of the bill. The specific provisions include:
  1. Extension Of Expiring Provisions: for business expenses, retirement savings contributions, higher education expenses, new markets tax credit, and deducting state and local sales taxes.
  2. Provisions Relating To Charitable Donations, and Reforming Charitable Organizations
  3. Improved Accountability of Donor Advised Funds
  4. Improvements in Efficiency and Safeguards in IRS Collection
Reference: Tax Relief Act of 2005; Bill S. 2020 ; vote number 2005-347 on Nov 18, 2005

Voted NO on $350 billion in tax breaks over 11 years.

H.R. 2 Conference Report; Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. Vote to adopt the conference report on the bill that would make available $350 billion in tax breaks over 11 years. It would provide $20 billion in state aid that consists of $10 billion for Medicaid and $10 billion to be used at states' judgment. The agreement contains a new top tax rate of 15 percent on capital gains and dividends through 2007 (5 percent for lower-income taxpayers in 2007 and no tax in 2008). Income tax cuts enacted in 2001 and planned to take effect in 2006 would be accelerated. The child tax credit would be raised to $1,000 through 2004. The standard deduction for married couples would be double that for a single filer through 2004. Tax breaks for businesses would include expanding the deduction that small businesses could take on investments to $100,000 through 2005.
Reference: Bill HR.2 ; vote number 2003-196 on May 23, 2003

Voted YES on reducing marriage penalty instead of cutting top tax rates.

Vote to expand the standard deduction and 15% income tax bracket for couples. The elimination of the "marriage penalty" tax would be offset by reducing the marginal tax rate reductions for the top two rate bracket
Reference: Bill HR 1836 ; vote number 2001-112 on May 17, 2001

Voted NO on increasing tax deductions for college tuition.

Vote to increase the tax deduction for college tuition costs from $5,000 to $12,000 and increase the tax credit on student loan interest from $500 to $1,000. The expense would be offset by limiting the cut in the top estate tax rate to 53%.
Reference: Bill HR 1836 ; vote number 2001-114 on May 17, 2001

Voted YES on eliminating the 'marriage penalty'.

Vote on a bill that would reduce taxes on married couples by increasing their standard deduction to twice that of single taxpayers and raise the income limits on both the 15 percent and 28 percent tax brackets for married couples to twice that of singles
Reference: Bill HR.4810 ; vote number 2000-215 on Jul 18, 2000

Voted YES on phasing out the estate tax ("death tax").

Vote on a bill that would eventually eliminate the tax imposed on estates and gifts by 2010 at an estimated cost of $75 billion annually when fully phased in.
Reference: Bill HR 8 ; vote number 2000-197 on Jul 14, 2000

Voted NO on across-the-board spending cut.

The Nickles (R-OK) Amdendment would express the sense of the Senate that Congress should adopt an across-the-board cut in all discretionary funding, to prevent the plundering of the Social Security Trust Fund
Status: Amdt. Agreed to Y)54; N)46
Reference: Nickles Amdt #1889; Bill S. 1650 ; vote number 1999-313 on Oct 6, 1999

Voted YES on requiring super-majority for raising taxes.

Senator Kyl (R-AZ) offered an amendment to the 1999 budget resolution to express the sense of the Senate on support for a Constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority to pass tax increases.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)50; N)48; NV)2
Reference: Kyl Amdt #2221; Bill S Con Res 86 ; vote number 1998-71 on Apr 2, 1998

Rated 72% by NTU, indicating "Satisfactory" on tax votes.

McCain scores 72% by NTU on tax-lowering policies

Every year National Taxpayers Union (NTU) rates U.S. Representatives and Senators on their actual votes—every vote that significantly affects taxes, spending, debt, and regulatory burdens on consumers and taxpayers. NTU assigned weights to the votes, reflecting the importance of each vote’s effect. NTU has no partisan axe to grind. All Members of Congress are treated the same regardless of political affiliation. Our only constituency is the overburdened American taxpayer. Grades are given impartially, based on the Taxpayer Score. The Taxpayer Score measures the strength of support for reducing spending and regulation and opposing higher taxes. In general, a higher score is better because it means a Member of Congress voted to lessen or limit the burden on taxpayers. The Taxpayer Score can range between zero and 100. We do not expect anyone to score a 100, nor has any legislator ever scored a perfect 100 in the multi-year history of the comprehensive NTU scoring system. A high score does not mean that the Member of Congress was opposed to all spending or all programs. High-scoring Members have indicated that they would vote for many programs if the amount of spending were lower. A Member who wants to increase spending on some programs can achieve a high score if he or she votes for offsetting cuts in other programs. A zero score would indicate that the Member of Congress approved every spending proposal and opposed every pro-taxpayer reform.

Source: NTU website 03n-NTU on Dec 31, 2003

Rated 50% by CTJ, indicating a mixed record on progressive taxation.

McCain scores 50% by the CTJ on taxationissues

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 CTJ scores as follows:

About CTJ (from their website, www.ctj.org):

Citizens for Tax Justice, founded in 1979, is not-for-profit public interest research and advocacy organization focusing on federal, state and local tax policies and their impact upon our nation. CTJ's mission is to give ordinary people a greater voice in the development of tax laws. Against the armies of special interest lobbyists for corporations and the wealthy, CTJ fights for:

Source: CTJ website 06n-CTJ on Dec 31, 2006

Taxpayer Protection Pledge: no new taxes.

McCain signed Americans for Tax Reform "Taxpayer Protection Pledge"

Politicians often run for office saying they won't raise taxes, but then quickly turn their backs on the taxpayer. The idea of the Pledge is simple enough: Make them put their no-new-taxes rhetoric in writing.

In the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, candidates and incumbents solemnly bind themselves to oppose any and all tax increases. While ATR has the role of promoting and monitoring the Pledge, the Taxpayer Protection Pledge is actually made to a candidate's constituents, who are entitled to know where candidates stand before sending them to the capitol. Since the Pledge is a prerequisite for many voters, it is considered binding as long as an individual holds the office for which he or she signed the Pledge.

Since its rollout with the endorsement of President Reagan in 1986, the pledge has become de rigeur for Republicans seeking office, and is a necessity for Democrats running in Republican districts.

Source: Americans for Tax Reform "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" 10-ATR on Aug 12, 2010

Supports the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

McCain signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge against raising taxes

[The ATR, Americans for Tax Reform, run by conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist, ask legislators to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in each election cycle. Their self-description:]

In the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, candidates and incumbents solemnly bind themselves to oppose any and all tax increases. Since its rollout in 1986, the pledge has become de rigeur for Republicans seeking office, and is a necessity for Democrats running in Republican districts. Today the Taxpayer Protection Pledge is offered to every candidate for state office and to all incumbents. More than 1,100 state officeholders, from state representative to governor, have signed the Pledge.

The Taxpayer Protection Pledge: "I pledge to the taxpayers of my district and to the American people that I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

Opponents' Opinion (from wikipedia.com):In Nov. 2011, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) claimed that Congressional Republicans "are being led like puppets by Grover Norquist. They're giving speeches that we should compromise on our deficit, but never do they compromise on Grover Norquist. He is their leader." Since Norquist's pledge binds signatories to opposing deficit reduction agreements that include any element of increased tax revenue, some Republican deficit hawks now retired from office have stated that Norquist has become an obstacle to deficit reduction. Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, has been particularly critical, describing Norquist's position as "no taxes, under any situation, even if your country goes to hell."

Source: Taxpayer Protection Pledge 12-ATR on Jan 1, 2012

Implement socially fair, broad-based tax cuts.

McCain adopted the Republican Main Street Partnership issue stance:

Not only has the Republican-led Congress achieved a balanced budget for the first time since 1969, but it has also created a budget surplus -- a feat not previously even imaginable. It is currently projected that the Fiscal Year 1999 budget surplus will be along the order of some $80 billion, of which $66 billion is earmarked for Social Security. This envious state of affairs would seem to indicate that equitable, far-reaching tax reductions may be in order -- not as an ideological or political strategy, but as a primary element of an economic growth policy and a legitimate tool for holding down unnecessary government growth in times of surplus.

The United States is enjoying steady economic prosperity thanks in no small measure to prudent fiscal policies implemented by the Republican-led Congress. However, we must look not only at the positive side of the economy but also at the problems the economy faces -- at the present time and into the twenty-first century. Limiting government spending (i.e., spending caps) is a good beginning to address some difficulties. In addition, current and future Congresses should maintain a balanced federal budget, pay down the national debt (which will help protect Social Security for current and future generations), redefine the federal government's role in the society and, finally, think about fair tax reductions for the American people and the businesses that drive our economy. [We need] an evaluation of implementing tax cuts based on their social fairness.

Source: Republican Main St. Partnership Issue Paper: Fiscal Policy 98-RMSP6 on Sep 9, 1998

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