Following his wins in the South Carolina and Florida Republican primaries, Arizona Sen. John McCain has become the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. He has spent the last year attempting to convince the conservative base of the Republican Party that he is one of them — but his record in the Senate shows otherwise.
Most voters know about his anti-free speech McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. His temper is legendary, and his mistreatment of conservatives and fellow Republicans has earned him accolades from the liberal media who lovingly refer to him as a “maverick.” And he suffered a blow to his campaign last summer after his second failed attempt to pass the McCain-Kennedy guest-worker/amnesty bill. But his apostasies go far beyond that into taxes, judges, life concerns, same-sex marriage, energy and other issues important to conservatives.
Here are some issues that many conservatives may have forgotten — or never known — about John McCain’s far-from-conservative record:
Though McCain wants voters to view him as a strong, Reaganesque conservative on taxes, his conduct has not been so positive.
He has established a record of not simply opposing tax cuts — including the Bush cuts of 2001 and 2003 and the attempt to eliminate the death tax in 2002 — but of opposing them using class-warfare rhetoric (See “John McCain’s Top 10 Class-Warfare Arguments Against Tax Cuts,” HUMAN EVENTS, January 14.). He even went so far as to be to the left of former NBC “Today” host Katie Couric.
In response to McCain’s claim that President Bush’s tax relief benefited the wealthy but instead should go to “average citizens who also are double-taxed every single day” in a Jan. 7, 2003, interview on “Today,” Couric said: “But, Sen. McCain … working Americans, the middle-class Americans, under the Bush proposals will get a major break. A family of four making $39,000 a year … will get a $1,100 tax cut for several years, allowing them to plan their individual budgets. That sounds like something that won’t just simply benefit the wealthy.”
McCain’s response: “Well, I think it will.”
McCain, of course, had the backing of the New York Times in his class-warrior fight against the Bush tax cuts. In a Jan. 7, 2000, editorial, the Times said:
“On the tax-cut issue, Mr. McCain’s approach is more sound than that of the Texas governor. Mr. Bush’s tax scheme is costly and unfair.”
He tells voters that he opposes all tax increases, but he won’t sign the Americans for Tax Reform pledge to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses.” When asked why in a Sept. 5, 2007, debate on Fox News, McCain said:
“Because I stand on my record, and my record is 24 years of opposing tax increases, and I oppose them, and I’ll continue to oppose them. . . . I don’t have to sign pledges. My record stands for itself. It’s very clear to the American people. I’ve been in this business a long, long time. But the point is that I voted against the tax cuts because there was no restraint in spending.”
But how honest is McCain being about this claim? First, spending has increased since he voted against the tax cuts. If excessive government spending was a good enough reason to oppose them in the first place, shouldn’t that be a good enough reason to let them expire?
Second, McCain has given mixed messages about his support (or opposition) to the extension of the tax cuts. McCain told NBC “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert that he would not support extending the tax cuts because of size of the federal deficit — but then he voted to extend them. Here’s the exchange from May 13, 2007:
MR. RUSSERT: On tax cuts. You were on this program back in ’03, and I asked you this: “Do you believe the President, because of the war, should be asking Americans for more sacrifice, should hold off any future tax cuts until we have a sense of the costs of the war and the state of our economy?” [McCain:] “Yes, I do. I believe that until we find out the costs of this war and the reconstruction that we should hold off on tax cuts.” You came back the next year, I again asked you about opposing the Bush tax cuts, and this is what you said:
[Videotape of McCain, April 11, 2004]: “I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportional amount that went to the wealthiest Americans. I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order to help address the deficit.”
MR. RUSSERT: Disproportionate to the wealthiest Americans. And you wouldn’t extend them because it would hurt the deficit. [Yet] you voted to extend them.
SEN. McCAIN: I voted to extend them because it would have the effect of having a tax increase. . . . The problem is that spending has lurched completely out of control. My proposal was to restrain spending. And now, if you don’t make them, those tax cuts, permanent, businesses, families, farms all over America will have to experience what, for all intents and purposes, the impact on them would be a tax increase. Would I have liked to have seen more tax cuts to middle-income Americans? Did I have a different proposal? Yes. But I supported tax cuts, and I have never supported — I do not support tax increases.
Third, he has said he is willing to raise Social Security taxes. In a Feb. 20, 2005, interview on “Meet the Press,” Russert asked McCain if he would support, “as part of the solution to Social Security’s solvency problem … lift[ing] the cap so that you would pay payroll tax, Social Security tax, not just on the first $90,000 of your income, but perhaps even higher.” McCain answered: “As part of a compromise I could, and other sacrifices. . . . I’m proud of the job that Sen. Lindsey Graham has been doing in his leadership position on this issue and showing some courage.”
Finally, despite his claims to have never voted for a tax increase, the Club for Growth has pointed out:
“As chairman of the Commerce Committee in 1998, he sponsored and voted for an enormous 282% tax increase on cigarettes. Sen. McCain defended the proposal as a ‘fee’ rather than a tax increase, but his semantic tap dance doesn’t change the numerical facts.”
Judges and Gang of 14
A key issue for conservatives every presidential election is the nomination of strict constructionist judges to serve on the Supreme Court. Not only has McCain supported President Bush’s Supreme Court nominees, he has said he would appoint justices that would please conservatives. But a January 28 report by the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund raised concerns on the right. Fund wrote:
“[McCain] has told conservatives he would be happy to appoint the likes of Chief Justice Roberts to the Supreme Court. But he indicated he might draw the line on a Samuel Alito because ‘he wore his conservatism on his sleeve.’”
McCain, of course, immediately told reporters that that is not a statement he remembers ever making and since has repeatedly said that he would appoint justices like Roberts and Alito. But Robert Novak reported three days later, in his January 31 column, that “multiple sources confirm [McCain’s] negative comments about Alito nine months ago.”
Conservative former Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.) also raised doubts about the kind of justices McCain would nominate. He told radio talk-show host Mark Levin January 10:
“This is not a guy who would give me a lot of confidence that he would appoint the judges who are necessary on the court to overturn Roe v. Wade, who would be strict constructionist judges.”
Also a concern for the right is McCain’s involvement in the infamous “Gang of 14.” In late May 2005, just as then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) was ready to pull the trigger on the “nuclear option” to end the filibustering of judicial nominees, McCain undermined his party with his own solution. Mark Levin wrote this about it for HUMAN EVENTS (See “Call Them the Sellout Seven”):
“On the eve of the day when the unconstitutional filibustering of judicial nominees was going to be voted down by the Republican majority in the Senate — returning the body to the majoritarian rule on judicial nominations that had stood for more than 214 years — seven so-called ‘moderate’ Republicans sabotaged their 48 Senate colleagues, the Senate leadership and the President. For weeks, they had huddled in secret with seven Democrats looking for a deal to avoid the coming showdown. . . . John McCain of Arizona, their leader, has built his career on undermining his party.”
Not surprisingly, the New York Times loved the Gang of 14. In a June 12, 2005, editorial, the Times said:
“The bipartisan ‘Gang of 14’ that struck a deal to save the filibuster could start to be a powerful force for centrism on the most divisive issue on Capitol Hill — judicial nominations. . . . Last month, 14 senators injected some sanity into the situation. . . . The moderate Republicans who signed the agreement have done the country a service by preserving the filibuster.”
Further discussing McCain and the judiciary on Levin’s radio show, Santorum said:
“That’s another situation where we felt it was important to establish a precedent where these nominations deserved an up or down vote on the floor of the United States Senate and they couldn’t use the rules that were not meant for executive nominations to apply to them, to block those votes. We were ready to go, and John McCain was not ready to go.”
McCain voted for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage and provides that no state is required to legally recognize same-sex marriages that are performed in states that do recognize such marriages. But he has sent conservatives mixed signals on his stance since DOMA’s passage.
Following the Lawrence v. Texas case in which the Supreme Court found a constitutional right to same-sex sodomy, the debate over same-sex marriage was resurrected. The Massachusetts supreme court ruled not long after in favor of same-sex marriage, citing the Lawrence decision. And it won’t be long before the Supreme Court will be forced to take up the constitutionality of DOMA. Because of these circumstances, conservative leaders proposed an amendment to the Constitution — which would require the support of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the states — defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
“The constitutional amendment we’re debating today strikes me as antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans.”
He then voted against even allowing the measure to come to the Senate floor. CNN reported that McCain wanted to “make clear to his constituents that he is against the amendment itself.”
And, in a June 6, 2006, floor speech, ignoring the Supreme Court’s past findings of a right to privacy and a right to sodomy in the Constitution, McCain said:
“Another reason I am reluctant to support the proposed amendment at this point in time is that I do not accept the proposition that the current Constitution could ever reasonably be read to contain a supposed ‘right’ that it plainly does not contain.”
Right to Life
Though McCain campaigns on a strong pro-life record, he has caused many in the right-to-life camp to wonder about his credentials. When asked at the May 3, 2007, GOP debate whether he would expand federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, McCain answered:
“I believe that we need to fund this. This is a tough issue for those of us in the pro-life community. I would remind you that these stem cells are either going to be discarded or perpetually frozen. We need to do what we can to relieve human suffering. It’s a tough issue. I support federal funding.”
He also voted for the “Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007” (S 5) on April 11, 2007. The bill allowed federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, regardless of the date when the cells were taken from the destroyed embryo. (President Bush limited federal funding to only stem cells that were derived by Aug. 9, 2001.)
McCain and 57 other senators (mostly Democrats) sent a letter to President Bush on June 4, 2004, urging him to expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
McCain’s stance on embryonic stem-cell research has not been the only source of frustration for pro-lifers — he has flip-flopped his opinion of whether Roe v. Wade should be repealed, according to LifeSiteNews.com. John-Henry Westen wrote this in a Feb. 19, 2007, LifeSiteNews.com piece:
“Speaking in South Carolina this weekend, Sen. John McCain said that he opposed the Roe v. Wade decision that allowed abortion in the United States. ‘I do not support Roe v. Wade. It should be overturned,’ the Arizona senator stated, reports MSNBC.
“Speaking on Roe v. Wade [Aug. 25, 1999], McCain told the San Francisco Chronicle: ‘I’d love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.’
“It seems that McCain’s flip flops come fast and furious, and are best predicted by whatever way the political wind is blowing at the time.”
In May 1998, the Senate took up McCain’s anti-tobacco bill (“The National Tobacco Policy and Youth Smoking Reduction Act”) purportedly designed to keep kids from smoking and cap the annual damages the tobacco industry would be forced to pay plaintiffs.
The bill was described by Republicans as a “tax-and-spend piece of social engineering that had less to do with cutting teenage smoking than funding government programs,” according to a CNN report. It contained a hike in cigarette taxes, a restriction on the tobacco industry’s ability to advertise, greater regulatory powers for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), annual multi-billion-dollar fines if youth smoking does not fall by preset, agreed-upon goals, and a secondhand-smoke provision (which was an unfunded mandate on state and local governments and private business).
According to the Senate Republican Policy Committee (RPC), the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) examined the cigarette tax hike in McCain’s bill and how the price increases would affect income classes. The RPC reported:
“Statistics show that excise taxes are regressive and disproportionately affect those in the lower-income brackets. JCT distribution tables found that in 2003, a taxpayer making less than $10,000 per year would pay 35.1% more in federal taxes; a taxpayer making between $10,000 and $20,000 would pay 9.6% more; and a taxpayer earning between $20,000 and $30,000 would pay 4.2% more. Overall, taxpayers earning less than $75,000 a year would pay 54.5% more in taxes.”
The bill would have severely limited tobacco advertising, which most Republicans would recognize as an unconstitutional limitation of free speech — but not John McCain. His bill was a definite 1st Amendment violation. The RPC wrote this about the advertising limits:
“Say what you will about Joe Camel or the Marlboro Man or any other pitchman for tobacco, there are fundamental constitutional facts that Congress cannot ignore when it considers a tobacco bill. When the owners of Joe Camel or the Marlboro Man employ their costly cultural icons in an ad or on a package, they are engaging in speech that is protected by the Constitution of the United States. . . . First Amendment rights are not absolute, but tobacco manufacturers (and tobacco retailers and tobacco consumers) do indeed have rights of speech and expression under the 1st Amendment.”
War on Terror
McCain’s focus this campaign has been his purported strength on national security and the War on Terror. Though he has been a faithful supporter of the troops and was one of the original proponents of the troop surge that has led to major success in Iraq, McCain’s positions on the detention and interrogation of known and suspected terrorists and unlawful combatants is, at best, troubling.
First, he has called for the closing of the terrorist detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay. An article in the March 18, 2007, UK Sunday Telegraph, “Straight-Talking McCain Vows To Fix World’s View of the ‘Ugly American,’” reported that McCain said “restoring America’s sullied reputation abroad will be ‘a top priority’ if he wins the White House.” How would McCain do this? He has a “series of measures to roll back Bush policies”:
“I would immediately close Guantanamo Bay, move all the prisoners to Ft. Leavenworth and truly expedite the judicial proceedings in their cases.”
According to McCain, cleaning up America’s image is vital for successfully fighting the War on Terror and winning over the hearts and minds of Islamic extremists — whether the issue is the detention of unlawful combatants or the environment. When “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace asked the senator in an April 29, 2007 interview how he “would … fight the War on Terror differently,” McCain replied:
“I would probably announce the closing of Guantanamo Bay. I would move those detainees to Ft. Leavenworth. I would announce we will not torture anyone. I would announce that climate change is a big issue, because we’ve got some image problems in the world. . . . Clearly, in the area of ‘propaganda,’ in the area of the war of ideas, we are not winning as much as — well, in some ways we are behind. Al-Jazeera and others maybe, in … my view, may sometimes do a better job than we are. At the end of the day, it’s how people make up their minds as to whether they want to embrace our values, our standards, our ideals, or whether they want to go the path of radical Islamic extremism, which is an affront to everything we stand for and believe in.”
McCain’s actions and rhetoric on interrogating known and suspected terrorists have been a source of consternation for our military and intelligence personnel working to protect American lives. His amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill in 2005 (S Amdt. 1977), which was agreed to 90 to nine Oct. 5, 2005, limited interrogation methods to only those that are authorized in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation and confused existing law on torture by demanding that, according to the amendment’s text, “no individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” But the amendment did not define these terms.
McCain also has repeatedly railed against water-boarding, calling the practice torture — even though it does no lasting physical or mental damage. Water-boarding is one of the most effective interrogation methods we have and was used successfully on Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who confessed to a number of ongoing plots against the U.S. and gave up information that helped authorities arrest at least six major terrorists.
McCain even teamed with Senate Democrats in using the water-boarding issue to delay the confirmation of Michael Mukasey to be attorney general. He told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in a Nov. 4, 2007, interview:
“I am confident that [Mukasey] will declare that practice illegal, and therefore, I will vote to support his nomination.”
The ACLU has been a vocal backer of McCain’s grandstanding. The day the Senate agreed to McCain’s torture amendment ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said:
“Despite the Bush Administration’s efforts, the torture issue has not gone away and we applaud Sen. McCain for his proposal. The highest levels of our government have not been held accountable and it’s clear that this administration lacks the political will to enforce proper interrogation policies. Instead of taking proactive steps to hold officials accountable, we see chief architects of torture policies receive promotions. Right now, the Senate Judiciary Committee is considering the administration’s nomination of Timothy Flanigan for deputy attorney general, even though he played a key role in approving torture policies at the White House and is on record defending water-boarding.”
Energy & Environment
John McCain has repeatedly said that America must reduce its dependence on foreign oil, but he has frequently cast votes against measures to increase our domestic oil supply, specifically in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). McCain has cast several votes against drilling in ANWR, including on April 18, 2002 (S Amdt. 31323), March 19, 2003 (S Amdt. 272), March 16, 2005 (S Amdt. 168), and Nov. 3, 2005 (S Amdt. 2358).
McCain, like many Republicans, has bought into the man-made global-warming rhetoric perpetuated by liberal fear-mongers such as Al Gore. McCain’s gullibility on climate change led him to co-sponsor with Democratic Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act of 2003. The bill, which lost 43 to 55 on Oct. 30, 2003, was typical leftist legislation, complete with Kyoto-style goals and a cap-and-trade scheme.
In a Jan. 8, 2003, op-ed touting their bill in the Los Angeles Times, McCain and Lieberman praised cap-and-trade:
“One way to limit the release of greenhouse gases is a simple but powerful idea called ‘cap and trade,’ which is at the core of a bill we are introducing in the Senate. Past strategies have failed because of the belief — and, sometimes, the reality — that they would weigh down American businesses with costly and complicated new mandates. Our proposal harnesses the genius of American enterprise by creating a market for companies that emit greenhouse gases to compete to clean up our air. The bill would cap the country’s overall emissions and allow individual companies to find the most innovative and cost-effective ways to reduce their greenhouse gases. Under this system, companies would also be able to trade pollution credits with each other.”
They also laid the typical liberal guilt-trip on Americans for being selfish, polluting energy-hogs (not mentioning, of course, the positive things America does with its energy use):
“The ‘cap-and-trade’ system is a constructive, business-friendly approach to countering global warming. Ignoring global warming threatens our environment, our economy and our international credibility. . . . The U.S. produces about a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases but has shown an unwillingness to produce any of the world’s climate-change solutions. That is compromising our international stature and relationships with our most important allies when we need them the most. We should never compromise critical U.S. policy simply to satisfy the international community. But in this case, doing what will earn respect and support around the world is also in our own best environmental and economic interests and is the right thing to do.”
Analysis of the 2003 McCain-Lieberman bill provided by the Chicago-based libertarian Heartland Institute revealed that the bill “mandated a reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2010, and cuts to 1990 levels by 2016.” The Heartland Institute when on to say, “In essence, the bill called for implementation of ‘Kyoto-lite’ energy restrictions on the U.S. economy.”
In 2004, McCain and Lieberman introduced a new version, advertised as less-costly than McCain-Lieberman 2003. The Heartland Institute reported in August 2004:
“McCain-Lieberman 2004 retains the mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2010, but it drops the subsequent requirement to reduce emissions to 1990 levels. Charles Rivers Associates, in cooperation with the National Black Chamber of Commerce’s United for Jobs project, analyzed the projected costs of McCain-Lieberman 2004 in a study released in June. According to the study, McCain-Lieberman 2004:
- will cost the average U.S. household at least $600 per year by 2010, rising to at least $1,000 per year by 2020;
- will cost the U.S. economy at least 39,000 jobs in 2010, and at least 190,000 jobs by 2020;
- will force at least a 13% rise in electricity prices by 2010, and at least a 19% rise in electricity prices by 2020; and
- will force at least a 9% rise in gasoline prices by 2010, and at least a 14% rise in gasoline prices by 2020.”
The 2004 version failed to pass the Senate, but that didn’t stop McCain. He and Lieberman again introduced global-warming bills in 2005 (S 342, “Climate Stewardship Act of 2005”) and 2007 (S 280, “Climate Stewardship Act of 2007”).
McCain was, of course, praised heavily by the New York Times for his efforts to stick it to the Bush Administration and Republicans. In an Oct. 27, 2003 editorial, the Times said:
“There is a good test of senatorial courage coming this week. For the first time, senators will be asked whether they are prepared to do something serious about global warming. . . . It will provide the first true test of the sincerity of senators who say they care about the problem and have faulted President Bush for not doing enough.”
And a Nov. 1, 2003, editorial two days after the first McCain-Lieberman bill failed said:
“John McCain has failed in his first attempt to persuade his Republican colleagues in the Senate to give the issue of global warming the urgent attention it deserves. . . . But Mr. McCain, as we know, does not give up easily. He started his quest for campaign finance reform in 1995 and prevailed six years later. He promises to be just as tenacious on this issue.”
In what should be a warning to conservatives and Republicans, the Times went even further in a May 24, 2004, editorial, saying:
“What’s important is that over the last few years, Mr. McCain has morphed into a different kind of Republican — one who’s true to the party’s most basic values, but with an appeal that transcends the current red-state-blue-state national standoff. . . . The McCains of this world are increasingly rare birds, and therein lies the strongest reason why he should resist the siren call of presidential politics and remain where he is and who he is. The gradual disappearance of moderates from the Republican landscape has helped neither the party nor the country. Mr. McCain’s voice is more than a voice of bipartisan good sense. In time, it could lead the Republican Party back to where it once was and where it ought to be now.”
Not content with limiting Americans’ 1st Amendment protections, McCain has also taken aim at the 2nd Amendment. In 2001, he was the lead sponsor of an anti-gun show bill (S 890) that gun-rights groups adamantly opposed. On Nov. 30, 2001, the NRA wrote about McCain’s determination to push the bill though the Senate:
“In an effort to help move his stalled legislation, McCain has embraced the anti-gun organization Americans for Gun Safety (AGS) and the gun-ban lobby formerly known as HCI, as well as the shameless strategy these groups have adopted of exploiting our nation’s legitimate fears over terrorism in the wake of the attacks of September 11.
“. . . McCain told USA Today: ‘Clearly, alleged members of terrorist organizations have been able to secure guns and weapons using the gun-show loophole,’ a bogus claim AGS began making within days of the terrorist attacks. NRA-ILA Executive Director James Jay Baker … told USA Today, ‘None of the terrorism we saw visited on this country on September 11 had anything to do with firearms.’
“It should not be too surprising to find Sen. McCain reading from an AGS-supplied script, however, as the Arizona lawmaker and the anti-gun organization have schemed to promote attacks on gun shows for more than a year. AGS — founded and funded by billionaire and former HCI board member Andrew McKelvey — has committed to spend at least $1 million to promote McCain’s legislation. So much for McCain’s ‘opposition’ to well-funded special interest groups.”
McCain introduced another anti-gun show bill on Oct. 31, 2003, based on the 2001 bill.
Describing McCain’s political transformation on gun rights timed with his 2000 presidential run, Gun Owners of America, who gave McCain grades of “F-minus” in their 2004 and 2006 grading cycles, recently said in an op-ed:
“Earlier in his career, McCain had voted against the Clinton crime bill (which contained a ban on so-called assault weapons), and he did not join the 16 Senate Republicans who voted for the Brady bill, which required a five-day waiting period for the purchase of a handgun. But as he ramped up for his presidential run in 2000, McCain, expanding on the ‘maverick’ theme, staked out a position on guns far to the left of his primary opponent, George W. Bush.
“McCain began speaking out against small, inexpensive handguns and he entertained the idea of supporting the ‘assault weapons’ ban. . . .
“McCain was featured in radio and television ads in Colorado and Oregon supporting initiatives to severely regulate gun shows and register gun buyers. Anti-gunners were ecstatic to get McCain on board. . . . The ads not only pushed the anti-gun-show measure in those two states, they also served to undermine the efforts of gun rights activists who were furiously lobbying against the same type of bill in Congress. . . .
“John McCain tried running for President in 2000 as an anti-gunner. This year it appears he is seeking to ‘come home’ to the pro-gun community, but the wounds are deep and memories long.”
Patients’ Bill of Rights
In 2001, McCain co-sponsored with ultra-liberal Democratic Senators Teddy Kennedy (Mass.) and John Edwards (N.C.) a “Patients Bill of Rights” (PBR). The bill was a boon to the trial lawyer lobby — Edwards’ former colleagues.
According to a Senate Republican Policy Committee (RPC) analysis of the bill, it would have created enormous health insurance mandates and appeals processes that would have applied to the 194.6 million people covered by private health insurance. The bill also would have created expansive new rights to sue insurers, and employers who provide insurance, in federal and state courts.
The RPC reported that the bill could hike health insurance costs by “as much as 31% over two years” and that “nearly half of employers” said they “would drop employee health coverage if Congress passes legislation exposing them to increased liability.”
RPC also said that “using data prepared by the Congressional Budget Office and the independent Lewin Group, it is estimated McCain-Edwards-Kennedy would cause some 1.3 million Americans to lost their health coverage.”
“The McCain bill creates two opportunities to take a bite at the apple. First, it allows unlimited lawsuits against health plans and employers under state law. Second, it creates an expansive new remedy with very large damages under federal law … and will encourage dual claims and forum shopping.”
During the June 2001 Senate consideration of the bill, McCain opposed an amendment (S Amdt. 831) that, according to the RPC, would have capped the fees for personal injury lawyers who represent plaintiffs filing suits under any of various new causes of actions PBR would have created. “Specifically,” the RPC wrote, “for any award of more than $100,000, the injured party would have to receive at least 85% of the award, after subtracting the legal costs of prosecuting the case (personal injury lawyers typically take 33%, 40% or 50% of awards in addition to any amounts they take to cover the costs of bringing the cases).”
McCain, bowing to the wishes of trial lawyers such as John Edwards, also opposed an amendment (S Amdt. 840), which, according to the RPC, ensured:
“that employers and unions that offered self-employed, self-administered health insurance plans to their employees and members could not be sued for damages under any of the numerous federal and state causes of action that the bill would create if they also offered them the option either of accepting instead a fully insured healthcare plan that would preserve all of the rights to sue that this bill would give them or of accepting funds that they would use to purchase their own health insurance policies.”
McCain also voted to kill: an amendment (S Amdt. 846) requiring union-negotiated healthcare plans to be subject to the bill just as all other private group healthcare plans would have been; an amendment (S Amdt. 848) protecting from liability doctors who provide pro bono medical services to someone who did not have healthcare coverage or was unable to pay for the healthcare services provided; an amendment (S Amdt. 821) protecting from lawsuits small businesses (two to 15 employees) that offer employee health-insurance coverage; and a sense of the Senate amendment (S Amdt. 851) that “a patients’ bill of rights should … make medical savings accounts available to more Americans.”
The New York Times, of course, backed the McCain bill.