On Meet the Press, Tom Brokaw did not challenge Carly Fiorina's assertion that "[t]he principal reason that [Sen. John McCain] voted against the Bush tax cuts is that they were not accompanied by fiscal restraint." In fact, the reason McCain gave for voting against the tax cuts in a May 26, 2001, statement on the Senate floor was that "so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief."
On the July 13 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, host Tom Brokaw failed to challenge an assertion by Carly Fiorina, senior adviser to Sen. John McCain, that "[t]he principal reason that [McCain] voted against the Bush tax cuts is that they were not accompanied by fiscal restraint." Fiorina was responding to Brokaw's description of "what could be a Democratic ad this fall," during which he said, "Here's a man who voted against the Bush tax cuts, now he wants to make them permanent." McCain did reverse his position on the Bush tax cuts, as Brokaw noted, but the reason he gave for voting against them in his May 26, 2001, floor statement during the Senate debate on the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 conference committee report was not "that they were not accompanied by fiscal restraint," as Fiorina claimed, but that "so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief."
From McCain's floor statement:
Mr. President, I rise to oppose the Conference Report on the Reconciliation bill. I do so after having expressed hope that the progress we made in the Senate bill to scale back the benefits going to the top rate taxpayers to make room for more tax relief to lower income Americans would prevail in the final tax bill. During the debate on the Senate version of the tax reconciliation bill, I had urged my colleagues that substantial tax relief to middle income Americans should be our top priority.
I regret having to vote against this Conference Report. We had an opportunity to provide much more tax relief to millions of hard-working Americans. I supported a $1.35 trillion tax cut despite my concern that a tax cut of that size would restrict our ability to fund necessary increases in defense spending. But I cannot in good conscience 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.
McCain also voted against legislation in 2003 to accelerate the tax reductions enacted in the 2001 bill and to cut dividends and capital gains taxes. On the April 11, 2004, edition of NBC's Meet the Press, McCain said, "I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportionate amount that went to the wealthy Americans. I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order to help address the deficit. But the middle-income tax credits, the families, the child tax credits, the marriage tax credits, all of those I would keep."
As Media Matters for America has noted, in a March 3 article, New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller noted the discrepancy between McCain's 2001 statement on the Senate floor and what he claims now as the reason he voted against the tax cuts. Bumiller wrote that McCain's assertion then that the tax cuts disproportionately benefited the rich is "an objection that conservatives consider heresy," and "[w]hen pressed, Mr. McCain now says he voted against the tax cuts because they were not accompanied by sufficient spending cuts, an explanation somewhat more palatable to the right."
From the July 13 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
BROKAW: Both campaigns have had difficulty this week with accusations of flip-flopping, and let me begin with Ms. Fiorina. You said that your candidate, John McCain, is a man that the American people understands, that he walks the talk. But let me just share with you what I think could be a Democratic ad this fall. The ad will begin, "Oh, really?" after quoting you. Here's a man who voted against the Bush tax cuts, now he wants to make them permanent. Here's a man who has worried about global warming, now he wants to give American motorists a gas tax holiday so they can drive even more during the summer months. Here's a man who called Phil Gramm a trusted economic adviser, had him on the bus and in pictures with him, now he disowns him. Here's a man who said he really wasn't up to speed on the issue of whether birth control should be covered by insurance policies; in fact, he voted against it.
FIORINA: Well, let me start by saying that Senator McCain, at the time of the Bush tax cuts, proposed his own tax cuts, which would provide even greater relief to the middle class. The principal reason that he voted against the Bush tax cuts is because they were not accompanied by fiscal restraint, and he said at the time that we would be growing our federal budget deficit, which, in fact, we did. Federal spending has increased by 60 percent over the last seven years, and he believes government has to get its house in order. He also has said that he would double the exemption for dependents from $3,500 to $7,000, that he would phase out the alternative minimum tax.