McCain Rejects Anti-Tax Pledge, Supports Vote Against Bush Tax Cuts

By Josiah Ryan | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - At the November 2007 CNN/YouTube Republican debate, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) was one of only two candidates who refused to commit himself to opposing tax increases. Taxes are a crucial issue to many GOP voters in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.

McCain has refused to sign a pledge to not raise taxes, and he defended this decision at the Nov. debate by citing his record on tax-related votes in Congress.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, which crafted the no-new-taxes pledge, told Cybercast News Service: "If the rest of Congress had voted the way Senator McCain did" over the years "your taxes would be a trillion dollars higher then they are today."

But McCain told Fox News Channel's "Hannity and Colmes" guest host Rich Lowry last week that he did not regret his vote against President Bush's tax cuts. When asked if he had regrets, McCain said, "No, because I had significant tax cuts, and there was restraint on spending included in my proposal."

McCain justified his tax votes in 2001 by citing concerns about the national debt and shorting defense spending. He also said that the Bush tax cuts would be at the expense of the majority of Americans who are in much greater need of tax relief.

"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," said McCain.

"The Bush tax cuts were a driving force behind the economic prosperity of the last couple of years and a cornerstone of a pro-growth philosophy," said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey.

"Not only did Senator McCain oppose these cuts, he aligned himself with the likes of Ted Kennedy in his rhetorical attacks in 2001 and 2003. Four years later, American taxpayers still have not heard the senator disavow his misguided statements and votes," Toomey added.

At the November debate, CNN/YouTube chose Norquist to ask one of the videotaped questions. He pressed the Republican presidential candidates on whether they would promise "to oppose and veto any efforts to raise taxes."

McCain replied: "I have a 24-year record of opposing tax increases and supporting tax reductions. And, no, I'm like Fred [Thompson]. My pledge and my record are up to the American people, not up to any other organization."

The McCain campaign did not respond to telephone calls for comment from Cybercast News Service by press time.

But Norquist said he didn't think McCain's debate answer was just rhetoric. "We have called McCain, sent him letters, e-mailed him and tried to contact him in every possible way," Norquist told Cybercast News Service. "So far, he has refused to commit to the Taxpayer Protection Pledge."

The Taxpayer Protection Pledge calls on federal lawmakers to commit to their constituents, in writing, to oppose any and all efforts to raise income taxes. The only other Republican candidate who has not signed the pledge is former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.

The Americans for Tax Reform Web site notes that McCain signed the pledge as a candidate for president in 2000 and has signed and kept the pledge as a senator despite his refusal to sign it as a presidential candidate.

Republicans Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu, both New Hampshire Republicans, have signed the pledge.

Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the New Hampshire-based Josiah Bartlett Center, told Cybercast News Service that McCain's vote against the Bush tax cuts were "disappointing for a lot of us." Arlinghaus said McCain's uncertain stance, however, does not disqualify him as a viable candidate for the tax-concerned public of New Hampshire.

"The tax concern dominates the Republican primary," said Arlinghaus. "McCain's unwillingness to commit is a cause for nervousness, but I think his voting record has been pretty good. He gets a little bit of a buy for that."

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