On Face The Nation Sunday, the Republican Senator argued, "This agreement is not bipartisan. I have been in bipartisan agreements, many. This [bill] is three Republican senators. Every Republican congressman voted against it in the House, plus eleven Democrats, and all but three Republicans stayed together [in opposition] on this. That's not bipartisanship; that's just picking off a couple of Senators."
Host Bob Schieffer asked McCain what he thinks has to change in the bill in order to garner more Republican support, the senator answered, "I think from the beginning when the Speaker of the House [Pelosi] said, 'We won, so we're writing the bill,' that set the stage."
The bill (which McCain said was delivered to senators last night and is 778 pages long) is currently being poured over by Democratic staffers. "They will come up with a bill. But unfortunately, Republicans will not be involved in those negotiations. I regret that," he said.
In a tone reminiscent of the 2008 presidential election, McCain criticized the Obama administration. "In the interest of full disclosure, that's the way the Bush administration [operated] when we Republicans were in charge. That's the way we did business, but I thought we were going to have change, that change meant we work together.
"This is a set-back for all Americans" the senator said, "because we promised that we would work together in a more bipartisan, inclusive fashion … that has certainly not been the case with this bill."
McCain also said that he would not vote for the stimulus bill as it now stands, referring to the spending package as "generational theft." He said that the Senate version of the package (which, even after some pruning by Republicans and Democrats, currently stands at $827 billion) would lead to a $1.2 trillion budget deficit, which he said marks only the beginning of a greater downward spiral. "We are going to amass the largest debt in the history of this country and we are going to ask our kids and grandkids to pay for it," he said.
"I know America needs a stimulus," McCain admitted, "but this is not it."
Schieffer began his interview with a question likely on many people's minds, asking the Arizona senator how he has gotten right back to work after a devastating presidential election loss.
"I think the best cure for defeat, as hard as it may be, is to get back in the arena," McCain said. "I love what we do in the Senate. I'm honored to serve. I am honored to represent the people of Arizona and have some voice in major crises we face both at home and abroad. So best cure, I am happy to be back and I am happy to back on this program."
Sunday's appearance marked the 68th time McCain has been a guest on Face The Nation. He holds the record for the number of interviews on the long-running CBS program.
Also on the program, Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota disputed McCain's remarks dismissing the stimulus bill, saying passage of a stimulus package is "absolutely essential."
Conrad also said he believed support for the bill could be built among House Republicans who had voted lock-step against it. "I think it is possible," he said, adding that he thinks the Republicans' insistence on not supporting the package is politically motivated.
"I think most of them have made a political calculation that it's better to be in opposition," he told Schieffer. "You can see that on a political basis because, look, this economy is in desperately serious shape. It is going to get worse before it gets better. So they will be able to argue 'This package was ineffective.'"