Interview: John McCain On Stimulus Bill

Sen. John McCain
CBS News anchor Katie Couric talked Wednesday with one of the Republican opponents of the current stimulus package, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. What follows is a partial transcript of the interview.

Sen. John McCain: No bill is better than this bill, because it increases the deficit by over a trillion dollars. It has so many programs in it that create no jobs whatsoever. And it has no provisions to put us on the path of a balanced budget, once our economy has recovered.

Katie Couric: You say that you're very far apart, both sides. Are you talking about all the Republicans in the Senate, even some conservative Democrats who are uncomfortable with this package?

McCain: I know there are some Democrats who are uncomfortable. I know there are some quote "liberal" Republicans who lean more towards this package, and so it really is kind of a muddle here.

Couric: But Sen. McCain, hasn't President Obama tried to do just that, reach across the aisle, go up to Capitol Hill, invite Republicans to the White House to get this thorough. I know he's consulted you on several occasions hasn't he?

McCain: Well, look I appreciate what the president has done, talking to House Republicans and Senate Republicans but there hasn't been the negotiations to start with. Second of all, it passed. They passed it through the House without consultation with the Republicans and over here in the Senate, they have rejected all of the particular amendments that Republicans had proposed. So we need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk here.

Couric: You're offering your own proposal, along with other senators. What is different about your proposal Senator McCain?

McCain: Well, it's half the cost. It has to do with tax cuts like the payroll tax cuts and business tax cuts. It has money for military construction as well as replacing equipment for the military and it triggers a mechanism that would increase the gross domestic product by two percent. In other words, our economy recovers. We've got to put ourselves on a path to a balanced budget and eliminating the deficit that's mortgaging our children's futures.

Couric: Have you talked to President Obama about your proposal?

McCain: Yes, I have talked to President Obama on the phone and I appreciate his outreach, not only by me, but to others. Now serious negotiations have to take place.

Couric: Was he receptive to your plan?

McCain: Well, of course, he said that things would be considered. But Democrats here in the Senate are not receptive.

Couric: President Obama claims that there are absolutely no earmarks in this bill. As someone who has been a champion against earmarks, do you agree with that assessment?

McCain: Technically, yes, because the package came through without going through the normal process that it goes through. But the programs and proposals are clearly those characterized as earmark, that the Democrats have never been able to get through. I don't know if money for smoking cessation creates a job, even though it's a worthy cause. And there's a myriad of programs including that are not stimulative, nor are they job creating.

Couric One of the items you criticized on the Senate floor today, that has been in the stimulus package, the $2.9 billion for the weatherization assistance program. I actually asked President Obama about that yesterday. Let's listen to what he had to say.

"We're going to weatherize homes. That immediately puts people back to work. As a consequence of weatherization, their energy bills go down, and we reduce our dependence on foreign oil. What would be a more effective stimulus package than that? I mean, you're getting a threefer," Mr. Obama said.
Couric: What's your response to that?

McCain: I think many, many worthy projects that are in this bill but I do not believe that you can stimulate the economy and create jobs with programs like these. So, I have criticized these programs, which are there, and proposals which do not have an immediate effect on our economy to create jobs.

Couric: Sen. John McCain. Senator, so nice to see you again. Thank you so much for talking with us tonight.

McCain: Thank you, Katie.