How Conservative is McCain's Voting Record?

By Bruce Sullivan | July 7, 2008 | 8:25pm EDT

( - Senator John McCain's voting record in the US Senate shows that he is not its most conservative member, but according to the Almanac of American Politics, the Arizona Republican, who now occupies the seat once held by conservative icon Barry Goldwater, cannot be called a liberal either.

"Mr. McCain is a conservative. Period," said former Family Research Council director Gary Bauer, who recently withdrew from the GOP presidential race and is now backing McCain.

"Mr. McCain has a 17-year record of support in both the Senate and the Congress for pro-family, pro-life conservative ideals," wrote Bauer in a recent opinion article in the Washington Times.

Averaged over the last 12 years, McCain's conservative rating by the National Journal, which publishes the almanac yearly, is a 74 on social issues - much higher than all of his Democratic colleagues and slightly greater than a number of his fellow Republican senators, including Bob Bennett of Utah, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, Slade Gorton of Washington, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and John Warner of Virginia.

The National Journal describes its rating system as "an objective method" of analyzing congressional voting.

On economic issues, McCain's 71 National Journal average rating beats, or ties, Domenici, Gorton, Gregg, Warner, and Specter, plus Wayne Allard of Oregon and Chris Bond of Missouri.

McCain's weakest conservative credentials appear to be in foreign policy, where the National Journal gives him a 61 average conservative rating - lower than all of his GOP colleagues except Specter.

But among McCain's key conservative votes in the 1999 Senate trial was his "yes" to impeach President Clinton.

In the 105th session of the Senate, McCain voted to override Clinton's veto of the Partial Birth Abortion ban, he also voted in favor of the Balanced Budget Amendment, he agreed with those calling for the tabling of a bill calling for child gun locks, said yes to Education IRA's, voted for the Chemical Weapons Treaty Ban and voted against additional money for the Nuclear Test-ban Treaty.

In 1997 McCain received a rating of 80 from the American Conservative Union and an 82 from the National Taxpayers Union. From the liberal Americans for Democratic Action he was given a five and received no rating from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Among the most controversial of McCain's legislative efforts was his campaign finance reform bill. McCain, along with Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, called for the ending of "soft" campaign money. In essence, limiting the campaign efforts, including television commercials, ads and fliers made by special interest groups to influence elections. Liberals and conservatives attacked the bill as an infringement on the First Amendment rights of citizens.

"If you take out the votes on campaign finance reform he is almost a 100 percent conservative," McCain spokesman Dan McLaglen told

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