John McCain Caps Political Career by Declaring Himself a Fraud

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Country last. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In 2001, John McCain stood on the Senate floor and denounced the very concept of supply-side tax cuts.

“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,” the Arizona senator said, explaining his decision to vote against George W. Bush’s signature tax package. Two years later, McCain voted against renewing those tax cuts because they were still “too tilted to the wealthy” — and, also, because it he felt it fiscally irresponsible to cut taxes when no one knew how long or costly the war on terror would prove to be.

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Sixteen years later, economic inequality in America is dramatically more severe than it was when McCain said those words; the United States military is still fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq; and the Republican Party is pushing legislation that raises taxes on many middle-class families — and increases the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion — in order to finance a gigantic tax cut for corporate shareholders, millionaire business owners, and the heirs of multimillion-dollar estates.

And McCain will vote for the Trump tax cuts, anyway.

McCain had more reasons to oppose this legislation than any other Republican senator. Beyond his historic opposition to regressive changes to the tax code, McCain had demanded, just two months ago, that his party take a “bipartisan approach” to its tax legislation. He has spent most of this year railing against the GOP’s subversion of normal parliamentary procedure.

Now, Senate Republicans are trying to pass sweeping changes to the American tax code on a party-line vote — by gaming the rules of budget reconciliation in a manner that all but nullifies the legislative filibuster — while refusing to hold hearings on the bill’s (profound) consequences for our economy, or even present the Treasury Department’s own analysis of the bill’s implications for the national debt (because that analysis would reveal that the Treasury secretary is lying about the bill’s implications for the national debt).

And McCain will vote for the Trump tax cuts, anyway.

Several Republican senators have expressed concerns about the bill’s deficit impact. But McCain has more concrete reasons to oppose large deficits than those lawmakers do. The Arizona senator has flip-flopped on many issues during his time in office. But his one, unshakable policy conviction is that the United States must maintain a global military empire until the end of time. And empires cost money. The current Republican president won election while promising to curtail America’s involvement overseas and invest more money here at home. There is no popular support for cutting Social Security, while maintaining American boots on the ground in Somalia. If our nation ever enters a true fiscal crisis, McCain’s beloved military-industrial complex is all but certain to take a hit.

And McCain will vote for the Trump tax cuts, anyway.

The president has tried to publicly humiliate several Senate Republicans — but McCain is the only one whom he has mocked for suffering torture as a prisoner of war. Multiple GOP lawmakers are immune from political pressure because they are headed for imminent retirement — but only McCain enjoys the radical freedom that attends the knowledge of one’s imminent death.

And McCain will vote for the Trump tax cuts, anyway.

Mitch McConnell still has some wrinkles to iron out. It’s unclear how he will address his deficit hawks’ concerns without alienating his other members. And he has made expensive promises to Susan Collins and Ron Johnson, without revealing how he intends to pay for them.

But if John McCain will vote for McConnell’s final product — even if that means making one of his final acts as a public servant a garish betrayal of his putative principles — then his colleagues are all but certain to do the same.

John McCain Caps Career by Declaring Himself a Fraud