In his sixty-eighth appearance on Face The Nation, Senator John McCain called the stimulus bill heading towards a Senate vote this week "generational theft," and said he could not support the package as-is because of the debt it would create for America.
When asked by host Bob Schieffer if he would support the stimulus plan, the senator replied, "I can't Bob. I can't because I think it is the greatest transfer of not only spending but authority and responsibility to government."
He added, "I think it has policy changes in it which are fundamentally bad for America. For example, their 'Buy America' provision: that's protectionism, and that did not work in any time in our history.
"But most of all because I think this can only be described as generational theft."
McCain 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."
McCain also discussed the stimulus package negotiations, which he described as the antithesis of bipartisanship, and mocked the notion that "change" had come to Washington with the recent election.
"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," McCain said. Targeting Democrats in Congress and the White House, McCain said, "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."
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.'"