1 Jujin

John Mccain Committee Assignments 2013 Chevy


Legislative Metrics

Read our 2017 Report Card for McCain.

Ideology–Leadership Chart

McCain is shown as a purple triangle ▲ in our ideology-leadership chart below. Each dot is a member of the Senate positioned according to our liberal–conservative ideology score (left to right) and our leadership score (leaders are toward the top).

The chart is based on the bills McCain has sponsored and cosponsored. See full analysis methodology.

Ratings from Advocacy Organizations

Committee Membership

John McCain sits on the following committees:

  • Chair, Senate Committee on Armed Services
  • Ex Officio, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
  • Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Enacted Legislation

McCain was the primary sponsor of 52 bills that were enacted. The most recent include:

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We consider a bill enacted if one of the following is true: a) it is enacted itself, b) it has a companion bill in the other chamber (as identified by Congress) which was enacted, or c) if about one third or more of its provisions were incorporated into bills that were enacted (as determined by an automated text analysis, applicable beginning with bills in the 110th Congress).

Bills Sponsored

Issue Areas

McCain sponsors bills primarily in these issue areas:

Armed Forces and National Security (34%)Crime and Law Enforcement (12%)Immigration (12%)International Affairs (10%)Health (10%)Public Lands and Natural Resources (9%)Native Americans (7%)Transportation and Public Works (6%)

Recent Bills

Some of McCain’s most recently sponsored bills include...

View All » | View Cosponsors »

Voting Record

Key Votes

McCain’s VoteVote Description
Nay H.J.Res. 123: Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2018, and for other purposes.
Dec 7, 2017. Joint Resolution Passed 81/14.
Nay S. 612: WIIN Act
Dec 10, 2016. Motion Agreed to 78/21.
Nay H.R. 2028: Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Act, 2017
Dec 9, 2016. Motion Agreed to 63/36.
Yea H.R. 5325: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2017
Sep 28, 2016. Bill Passed 72/26.
Yea H.R. 22: Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act
Dec 3, 2015. Conference Report Agreed to 83/16.
H.R 22, formerly the Hire More Heroes Act, has become the Senate’s vehicle for passage of the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act or DRIVE Act (S. 1647). The DRIVE Act is a major bipartisan transportation bill that would authorize funding ...
Yea H.J.Res. 124 (113th): Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015
Sep 18, 2014. Joint Resolution Passed 78/22.
Nay On the Nomination PN399: Susan Owens Hickey, of Arkansas, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Arkansas
Oct 13, 2011. Nomination Confirmed 83/8.
Nay H.R. 1249 (112th): Leahy-Smith America Invents Act
Sep 8, 2011. Bill Passed 89/9.
The Leahy–Smith America Invents Act (AIA) is a United States federal statute that was passed by Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on September 16, 2011. The law represents the most significant change to the U.S. patent system since 1952, and ...
Yea H.R. 4853 (111th): Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010
Dec 15, 2010. Motion Agreed to 81/19.
The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (Pub.L. 111–312, H.R. 4853, 124 Stat. 3296, enacted December 17, 2010), also known as the 2010 Tax Relief Act, was passed by the United States Congress on December 16, 2010, and signed into ...
Nay On the Nomination PN177: Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., in the Army, to be General
Feb 8, 2007. Nomination Confirmed 83/14.

Missed Votes

From Jan 1987 to Mar 2018, McCain missed 1,076 of 10,239 roll call votes, which is 10.5%. This is much worse than the median of 1.4% among the lifetime records of senators currently serving. The chart below reports missed votes over time.

Show the numbers...

Time PeriodVotes EligibleMissed VotesPercentPercentile
1987 Jan-Mar5024.0%71st
1987 Apr-Jun1231310.6%86th
1987 Jul-Sep1201210.0%71st
1987 Oct-Dec12764.7%71st
1988 Jan-Mar8489.5%71st
1988 Apr-Jun137107.3%86th
1988 Jul-Sep12797.1%71st
1988 Oct-Oct3126.5%71st
1989 Jan-Mar2600.0%0th
1989 Apr-Jun7722.6%86th
1989 Jul-Sep11821.7%71st
1989 Oct-Nov9166.6%86th
1990 Jan-Mar4800.0%0th
1990 Apr-Jun9566.3%86th
1990 Jul-Sep11410.9%57th
1990 Oct-Oct6911.4%71st
1991 Jan-Mar4149.8%86th
1991 Apr-Jun7400.0%0th
1991 Jul-Sep9600.0%0th
1991 Oct-Nov6911.4%71st
1992 Jan-Mar6100.0%0th
1992 Apr-Jun7411.4%71st
1992 Jul-Sep11754.3%57th
1992 Oct-Oct1800.0%0th
1993 Feb-Mar9300.0%0th
1993 Apr-Jun9966.1%80th
1993 Jul-Sep10954.6%90th
1993 Oct-Nov9455.3%67th
1994 Jan-Mar861112.8%89th
1994 Apr-Jun9222.2%67th
1994 Jul-Sep13664.4%90th
1994 Oct-Dec1500.0%0th
1995 Jan-Mar1251310.4%80th
1995 Apr-Jun17152.9%70th
1995 Jul-Sep18452.7%60th
1995 Oct-Dec13321.5%90th
1996 Jan-Mar6035.0%82nd
1996 Apr-Jun12232.5%73rd
1996 Jul-Sep12100.0%0th
1996 Oct-Oct300.0%0th
1997 Jan-Mar3500.0%0th
1997 Apr-Jun12500.0%0th
1997 Jul-Sep10343.9%88th
1997 Oct-Nov3538.6%88th
1998 Jan-Mar5211.9%35th
1998 Apr-Jun13164.6%82nd
1998 Jul-Sep10965.5%88th
1998 Oct-Oct2200.0%0th
1999 Jan-Mar812024.7%95th
1999 Apr-Jun1112320.7%95th
1999 Jul-Sep1124842.9%95th
1999 Oct-Nov704158.6%95th
2000 Feb-Mar514078.4%95th
2000 Apr-Jun12065.0%89th
2000 Jul-Sep8989.0%89th
2000 Oct-Dec381231.6%89th
2001 Jan-Mar6300.0%0th
2001 Apr-Jun15721.3%71st
2001 Jul-Sep68811.8%91st
2001 Oct-Dec9244.3%91st
2002 Jan-Mar591627.1%96th
2002 Apr-Jun10721.9%67th
2002 Jul-Sep6100.0%0th
2002 Oct-Nov2613.8%78th
2003 Jan-Mar11200.0%0th
2003 Apr-Jun15053.3%89th
2003 Jul-Sep10800.0%0th
2003 Oct-Nov8900.0%0th
2004 Jan-Mar6411.6%67th
2004 Apr-Jun8833.4%89th
2004 Jul-Sep4224.8%78th
2004 Oct-Dec2214.5%70th
2005 Jan-Mar8122.5%87th
2005 Apr-Jun8955.6%87th
2005 Jul-Sep7622.6%67th
2005 Oct-Dec1202319.2%97th
2006 Jan-Mar8356.0%94th
2006 Apr-Jun107109.3%94th
2006 Jul-Sep7334.1%87th
2006 Nov-Dec16850.0%94th
2007 Jan-Mar1264233.3%98th
2007 Apr-Jun1128172.3%98th
2007 Jul-Sep1195949.6%98th
2007 Oct-Dec856576.5%98th
2008 Jan-Mar855058.8%98th
2008 Apr-Jun777698.7%98th
2008 Jul-Sep4747100.0%98th
2008 Oct-Dec600.0%0th
2009 Jan-Mar11800.0%0th
2009 Apr-Jun9677.3%94th
2009 Jul-Sep8911.1%56th
2009 Oct-Dec9411.1%54th
2010 Jan-Mar10821.9%64th
2010 Apr-Jun9600.0%0th
2010 Jul-Sep4400.0%0th
2010 Nov-Dec5100.0%0th
2011 Jan-Mar46715.2%98th
2011 Apr-Jun5811.7%30th
2011 Jul-Sep4912.0%48th
2011 Oct-Dec821417.1%98th
2012 Jan-Mar6323.2%83rd
2012 Apr-Jun10921.8%73rd
2012 Jul-Sep2813.6%61st
2012 Nov-Dec5024.0%72nd
2013 Jan-Jan100.0%0th
2013 Jan-Mar9211.1%62nd
2013 Apr-Jun7656.6%88th
2013 Jul-Sep43614.0%96th
2013 Oct-Dec80810.0%91st
2014 Jan-Mar9333.2%79th
2014 Apr-Jun12343.3%61st
2014 Jul-Sep5423.7%76th
2014 Nov-Dec9622.1%71st
2015 Jan-Mar13543.0%87th
2015 Apr-Jun8533.5%80th
2015 Jul-Sep5200.0%0th
2015 Oct-Dec6746.0%86th
2016 Jan-Mar3825.3%68th
2016 Apr-Jun7911.3%45th
2016 Jul-Sep3400.0%0th
2016 Nov-Dec1200.0%0th
2017 Jan-Mar10133.0%86th
2017 Apr-Jun5400.0%0th
2017 Jul-Sep531426.4%98th
2017 Oct-Dec1172622.2%97th
2018 Jan-Mar4949100.0%99th

Primary Sources

The information on this page is originally sourced from a variety of materials, including:

John McCain is pronounced:

jon // muh-KAYN

The letters stand for sounds according to the following table:

LetterSounds As In

Capital letters indicate a stressed syllable.

John McCain ran for President of the United States in the 2000 presidential campaign, but failed to gain the Republican Party nomination, losing to George W. Bush in a campaign that included a bitter battle during the South Carolina primary. He resumed his role representing Arizona in the United States Senate in 2001, and Bush won the election. Bush was President of the United States from 2001 to 2009. McCain won re-election to the Senate in 2004 and 2010.

Activities during first Bush term, 2001–2004[edit]

Peak maverick[edit]

Following the 2000 presidential election, there was a large amount of lingering bitterness between George W. Bush and McCain and between their respective staffs.[2][3][4] McCain was also upset that the Bush administration hired few if any of his aides for White House positions;[5] an unofficial Bush policy blocked McCain staffers from thousands of administration jobs.[6]

McCain began 2001 by taking positions opposite that of the new administration on a number of matters.[7] In January 2001 the latest iteration of McCain-Feingold was introduced into the Senate; it was opposed by Bush and most of the Republican establishment,[7] but helped by the 2000 election results, it passed the Senate in one form until procedural obstacles delayed it again.[8] In these few months McCain also opposed Bush on an HMO reform bill, on climate change measures, and on gun legislation.[7] Then in May 2001, McCain voted against the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001,[9] Bush's $350 billion in tax breaks over 11 years, which became known as "the Bush tax cuts". He was one of only two Republicans to do so,[7] saying that "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."[9][10] One McCain associate later described McCain's stance during this time: "John did what he thought was right. If it happened to be something that ticked off Bush, so much the better."[6] McCain used political capital gained from his presidential run, along with improved legislative skills, to become what The New York Times later termed "perhaps the [Senate]’s most influential member";[11] in doing so he built relationships with former Republican adversary Trent Lott and with high-profile Democrat Ted Kennedy.[11]

When Republican Senator Jim Jeffords became an Independent, throwing control of the Senate to Democrats, McCain defended Jeffords against "self-appointed enforcers of party loyalty."[7] Indeed, there was speculation at the time,[12] and in years since,[13] about McCain himself possibly leaving the Republican Party and becoming an Independent during the first half of 2001.[6] Republicans then held the Senate by only one person; McCain was one of three possible defection targets, along with Jeffords and Lincoln Chafee.[6] Accounts have differed as to who initiated any discussions, and McCain has always adamantly denied, then and later, that he ever considered doing so.[7][13] In any case, all of this was enough for conservative Arizonan critics of McCain to organize rallies and recalls against him in May and June 2001.[7]

September 11 and afterwards[edit]

During the September 11, 2001 attacks, McCain was in transit to, and at, his office in the U.S. Capitol.[14] After being evacuated, he stayed at an associate's Capitol Hill residence and made 17 national and Arizona media appearances to comment upon the attacks.[14] In the days after, he became one of the most visible leadership voices in the nation,[14] saying: "If there's anything Americans should know about this, it's that it's going to be a long struggle ... Americans have gotten used to quick fixes. We haven't been in a long struggle since the Vietnam War."[15] McCain voted for the USA Patriot Act in October 2001. McCain became a supporter of Bush and an advocate for strong military measures against those responsible with respect to the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan;[7] in a high-profile[7] late October 2001 Wall Street Journal op-ed piece he wrote, "America is under attack by a depraved, malevolent force that opposes our every interest and hates every value we hold dear." After advocating an overwhelming, not incremental, approach against the Taliban in Afghanistan, including the use of ground forces, he concluded, "War is a miserable business. Let's get on with it."[16] He and Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman wrote the legislation that created the 9/11 Commission,[17] while he and Democratic Senator Fritz Hollings co-sponsored the Aviation and Transportation Security Act that federalized airport security under what became the Transportation Security Administration.[18] On October 18, 2001, McCain stated on the Late Show with David Letterman that "There is some indication, and I don't have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may – and I emphasize may – have come from Iraq,"[19] more than a week before ABC's series of reports identifying the composition of the anthrax samples as uniquely Iraqi, a determination then and now generally considered to be erroneous.[20]

McCain-Feingold had been yet further delayed by the effects of September 11.[21] Finally in March 2002, aided by the aftereffects of the Enron scandal, it passed both House and Senate and, known formally as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, was signed into law by President Bush.[7] Bush declined to stage a White House Rose Garden signing ceremony for it, not wanting to give McCain the public satisfaction.[6] Nevertheless, seven years in the making, it was McCain's greatest legislative achievement[7] and had become, in the words of one biographer, "one of the most famous pieces of federal legislation in modern American political history."[22]

Meanwhile, in discussions over proposed U.S. action against Iraq, McCain was a strong supporter of the Bush position, labeling Saddam Hussein "a megalomaniacal tyrant whose cruelty and offense to the norms of civilization are infamous."[7] Unequivocally stating that Iraq had substantial weapons of mass destruction, McCain stated that Iraq was "a clear and present danger to the United States of America."[7] Accordingly, he voted for the Iraq War Resolution in October 2002.[7] Both before and immediately after the Iraq War started in March 2003, McCain agreed with the Bush administration's assertions that the U.S. forces would be treated as liberators by most of the Iraqi people.[23][24] In 2003, McCain protested the USAF award of a tanker contract to Boeing to lease aircraft to replace its aging fleet of aerial tankers.[25]

In the final quarter of 2002, McCain also proposed last minute language to amend the pending Federal anti-spam legislation that became known as the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. McCain's office tapped anti-spam expert and attorney Anne P. Mitchell to work with his office on the language of the amendment. The McCain Amendment, as it came to be known, was included in the version of CAN-SPAM which became Federal law on January 1, 2003.

In May 2003, McCain voted against the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, the second round of Bush tax cuts which served to extend and accelerate the first (which he had also voted against), saying it was unwise at a time of war.[9] By November 2003, after a trip to Iraq, McCain was publicly questioning Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's handling of the Iraq War, saying that "All of the trends are in the wrong direction" and that more U.S. troops were needed to handle the deteriorating situation in the Sunni Triangle.[26] By December 2004, McCain was bluntly announcing that he had lost confidence in Rumsfeld.[27]

In October 2003 the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act failed a vote in the Senate by 55 votes to 43, but would have introduced a cap and trade system of greenhouse gases at the 2000 emissions level.[28] In 2005 it was reintroduced under the altered moniker of the Climate Change Stewardship and Innovation Act, but again failed to gather enough support; Republicans opposed the Bill 49-6, while Democrats supported it 37-10.[29] If passed, the acts would have capped 2010 CO2emissions at the 2000 level. Residential and agricultural areas, as well as other areas deemed "not feasible", would be exempt. The bill would have also established a scholarship at the National Academy of Sciences for those studying climatology.[28]

2004 elections[edit]

In the 2004 U.S. presidential election, McCain was once again frequently mentioned for the vice-presidential slot, only this time as part of the Democratic ticket underneath nominee John Kerry.[30][31] Kerry and McCain had been close since their work on the early 1990s Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, and the pairing was seen as having great allure to independent voters,[30] with polls seeming to confirm the notion.[31] McCain had seemed open such a possibility in a March 2004 interview, only to have his staff reject it hours later.[32] In June 2004, it was reported that Kerry had informally offered the slot to McCain several times, but McCain had declined, either on grounds that it would be infeasible and weaken the presidency[31] or that the vice-presidency held no appeal for him[30] or that he thought Bush was a better president than Kerry would be.[6] McCain's office formally denied that any vice-presidential offer had taken place.[31] At the 2004 Republican National Convention, McCain enthusiastically supported Bush for re-election,[33] praising Bush's management of the War on Terror since the September 11 attacks.[33] At the same time, McCain defended Kerry by labeling the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Kerry's Vietnam war record as "dishonest and dishonorable" and urging the Bush campaign to condemn it.[34] By August 2004, McCain had the best favorable-to-unfavorable rating (55 percent to 19 percent) of any national politician.[33] In the fall general election, McCain worked very hard for Bush;[6] Bush campaign political director Terry Nelson later said, "[McCain] was our most important surrogate."[6]

McCain was himself up for re-election as Senator in 2004. There was some talk of Representative Jeff Flake mounting a Republican primary challenge against McCain;[27]Stephen Moore, president of the ideologically oriented Club for Growth (which attempts to defeat those it considers Republican in Name Only), led talk for the prospect,[35] saying "Our members loathe John McCain."[36] Flake decided not to do it, later saying "I would have been whipped."[35] In the general election McCain had his biggest margin of victory yet, garnering 77 percent of the vote against little-known Democrat Stuart Starky, an eighth grademath teacher[37] whom The Arizona Republic termed a "sacrificial lamb".[27] Exit polls showed that McCain even won a majority of the votes cast by Democrats.[38]

Following his 2000 presidential campaign, McCain made frequent appearances on entertainment programs on television and also in film, and even more so after 2004.[27] He hosted the October 12, 2002, episode of Saturday Night Live, making him the third U.S. Senator after Paul Simon and George McGovern, to host the show.

Activities during second Bush term, 2005–2008[edit]


McCain has been a regular guest on The Daily Show; as of 2006 he had been on that show eleven times, more than anyone else. McCain appeared in slightly edgy bits on Late Night with Conan O'Brien,[39] and also appeared several times on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Late Show with David Letterman.[40] McCain made a brief cameo on the television show 24 in 2006[40] and also made a cameo in the 2005 summer movie Wedding Crashers. In more serious fare, a television film entitled Faith Of My Fathers, based on McCain's memoir of his experiences as a POW, aired on Memorial Day, 2005, on A&E.[41] McCain was also interviewed in the 2005 documentary Why We Fight by Eugene Jarecki.[42] McCain continued to show up on the network Sunday political talk shows Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and This Week; from 2001 to April 2008 he appeared on them a total of 152 times, much more than any other political figure.[43]

In April 2006, McCain was named one of America's 10 Best Senators by Time magazine,[44] which said: "McCain has earned ... moral authority over the years by being patient and making the big play. Many of the problems McCain tackles are entrenched and unexciting: they challenge the rules in Washington and the cynicism of voters at home."[45]

Due in large part to his presidential candidacy, McCain missed over half of his Senate votes in 110th Congress through early August 2007. This was more than any other senator except Tim Johnson, who was absent due to health reasons.[46]

Domestic issues[edit]

On judicial appointments, McCain was long a believer in judges who “would strictly interpret the Constitution.”[47] McCain drew the ire of the originalist and similar legal movements in the U.S. in May 2005, however, when he led the so-called "Gang of 14" in the Senate, which established a compromise that preserved the ability of senators to filibuster judicial nominees, but only in "extraordinary circumstances."[48] The compromise took the steam out of the filibuster movement, but some Republicans remained disappointed that the compromise did not eliminate filibusters of judicial nominees in all circumstances.[49] In September 2005, McCain voted to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States, and in January 2006, voted to confirm Sam Alito to the bench as well, later calling them "two of the finest justices ever appointed to the United States Supreme Court."[47]

In January 2005, McCain, began his second stint as chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.[50] Working with the rest of the Arizona delegation, in late 2004 he had helped pass the Arizona Water Settlements Act, the most extensive Indian water settlement ever.[50] He played a leading role in exposing the Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal, finding money laundering, fraud, and tax violations[51] as rival tribes lobbied for congressional favor. The investigations continued into 2006, with the committee tracing Abramoff's activities across six tribes and states.[52] McCain spoke harshly of Abramoff: "What sets this tale apart, what makes it truly extraordinary, is the extent and degree of the apparent exploitation and deceit."[50] Some lobbyists and other operatives aligned with McCain helped in this investigation, and benefited financially from it.[53] In response to this and other developments regarding Indian gaming, by 2005 and 2006 McCain was pushing for amendments to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that would limit creation of off-reservation casinos by Indian tribes[54] as well as limiting the movement of tribes across state borders.[55] After McCain lost his chair position following Democrats regaining the Senate in 2007, he continued to introduce a number of Indian affairs-related legislation;[56] overall, he had had more effect on the development of laws regarding Indian casinos than any other member of Congress.[53]

Breaking from his 2001 and 2003 votes, McCain supported the Bush tax cut extension in May 2006, known as the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005, saying not to do so would amount to a tax increase.[9] The McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act was reintroduced for a third time January 2007, this time with the co-sponsorship of Barack Obama, among others. It featured a gradually reducing cap on emissions, and again failed the Senate vote, despite bipartisan support.[57]

Working with Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, McCain was a strong proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, which would involve legalization, guest worker programs, and border enforcement components: the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act was never voted on in 2005, while the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 passed the Senate in May 2006 but then failed in the House.[27] In June 2007, President Bush, McCain and others made the strongest push yet for such a bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, but it aroused furious grassroots opposition among talk radio listeners and others as an "amnesty" program,[58][59] and twice failed to gain cloture in the Senate and thus failed.[60]

In 2006, Project On Government Oversight, a government watchdog group, presented McCain with its Good Government Award for his contributions to government transparency and oversight, including his investigations into the Boeing tanker lease deal and the Abramoff lobbying scandal.[61]

Iraq and national security[edit]

Owing to his time as a POW, McCain has been recognized for his sensitivity to the detention and interrogation of detainees in the War on Terror. McCain has been an opponent of the Bush administration's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in the War on Terror, and has specifically referred to waterboarding as torture.[62][63] On October 3, 2005, McCain introduced the McCain Detainee Amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill for 2005. On October 5, 2005, the United States Senate voted 90-9 to support the amendment.[64] The amendment prohibits inhumane treatment of prisoners, including prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, by confining interrogations to the techniques in FM 34-52 Intelligence Interrogation. Although Bush had threatened to veto the bill if McCain's language was included,[65] the President announced on December 15, 2005 that he accepted McCain's terms and would "make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture, whether it be here at home or abroad."[66] Bush made clear his interpretation of this legislation in a signing statement, reserving what he interpreted to be his Presidential constitutional authority in order to avoid further terrorist attacks.[67] He has also said that he intends to "immediately close" the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp.[68]

In February 2008, despite his earlier statements against waterboarding, McCain voted against a ban on the technique's use by the CIA.[69] The bill in question contained other provisions to which McCain objected, and his spokesman stated: "This wasn't a vote on waterboarding. This was a vote on applying the standards of the [Army] field manual to CIA personnel."[70]

When the USA Patriot Act was up for renewal, McCain voted in favor of a compromise renewed act in March 2006 that gained large majority support.[71]

McCain continued questioning the progress of the war in Iraq. In September 2005, he questioned Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of StaffRichard Myers' habit of optimistic outlooks on the war's progress: "Things have not gone as well as we had planned or expected, nor as we were told by you, General Myers."[72] In August 2006 he criticized the administration for continually understating the effectiveness of the insurgency: "We [have] not told the American people how tough and difficult this could be."[27] From the beginning McCain strongly supported the Iraq troop surge of 2007;[73] the strategy's opponents labeled it "McCain's plan"[74] and University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato said, "McCain owns Iraq just as much as Bush does now."[27] The surge and the war were quite unpopular during most of the year, even within the Republican Party,[75] as McCain's presidential campaign was underway; faced with the consequences, McCain frequently responded, "I would much rather lose a campaign than a war."[76] In January 2008, when a questioner said, "President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years," McCain responded, "Make it a hundred. We've been in Japan for 60 years, we've been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That'd be fine with me as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That's fine with me. I hope it will be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping, and motivating people every single day."[77]

In spring 2008, McCain engaged in legislative conflict with fellow Naval Academy graduate and Vietnam veteran Jim Webb, regarding the latter's Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act.[78] McCain thought it too bureaucratic and that it would weaken retention of service members, and proposed alternate legislation instead.[79]


Remainder of 2008[edit]

During August 2008, Republic of Georgia launched a large scale military offensive against Russia backed South Ossetia, triggered a five-day-long Russia-Georgia war, results in a disastrous Georgia defeat. McCain, a fervent supporter of president of Georgia, spoke during a gathering "thoughts and prayers and support of the American people are with that brave little nation as they struggle today for their freedom and independence.... that I know I speak for every American when I say to him today, we are all Georgians." [80]

Following his defeat in the 2008 presidential general election, McCain returned to the Senate amid varying views about what role he might play there.[81] Some Republicans criticized his campaign for incompetency, and his lack of a Republican leadership position in the senate might hamper his effectiveness.[81] On the other hand, he was well-positioned to be an influential bridge between the Obama administration and the Republican side of the senate on issues that he and Obama had agreement on.[81]

In mid-November 2008 he met with President-elect Obama, and the two discussed some of those issues, among other matters.[82] Around the same time, McCain indicated that he intended to run for re-election to his Senate seat in 2010.[83] Whether he would face serious Democratic opposition in 2010 would depend largely on whether popular Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, whose term-limited time in office would expire after 2010, would accept a position in the Obama Cabinet or not.[83] Napolitano did, and in February 2009 McCain began active fundraising efforts for his re-election campaign.[84] In April 2009 McCain gained an announced Republican primary opponent for 2010 in Minuteman Civil Defense Corps co-founder Chris Simcox.[85] Simcox stated that "John McCain has failed miserably in his duty to secure this nation's borders and protect the people of Arizona from the escalating violence and lawlessness. ... Coupled with his votes for reckless bailout spending and big government solutions to our nation's problems, John McCain is out of touch with everyday Arizonans. Enough is enough."[86]

In December 2008, McCain cautioned against Republicans trying to exploit the Rod Blagojevich corruption scandal, saying that working together to solve the nation's economic crises was more important.[87] Regarding a possible presidential candidacy in 2012 by his former running mate Sarah Palin, McCain demurred, praising her effect on his own campaign but saying "at this stage ... my corpse is still warm, you know?"[87] McCain added that he was over feeling sorry for himself about the campaign: "But the point is: You've got to move on ... I'm still a senator from the state of Arizona. I still have the privilege and honor of serving this country, which I've done all my life, and it's a great honor to do so."[87] (Several months later, McCain would still decline to commit his support to Palin, saying he would want her to "compete" and that the Republicans had other "good, fresh talent".[88])


As the 111th Congress began, McCain returned to some of his past legislative themes, joining with old partner Russ Feingold to introduce bills limiting earmarks and re-proposing the line item veto.[89] In late January 2009, following the controversial processes in the New York senate appointment and Illinois senate appointments, McCain teamed with Feingold and Alaska Senator Mark Begich to sponsor a proposed constitutional amendment that would call for Senate vacancies to always be filled by special election rather than being initially filled by gubernatorial appointment.[90] However, in general McCain did not have a lengthy set of legislation he was interested in pushing.[91] Also in January 2009, McCain announced the creation of a new political action committee, the Country First PAC.[92] McCain kept a low profile otherwise, and declined to talk much about the campaign or about his thoughts on running mate Sarah Palin,[89] who was much in the news reflecting on the media portrayal she had gained during the campaign.[93]

Meanwhile, Obama consulted with McCain on a variety of matters, including nominations to top national security posts and McCain's perceptions from a trip to Pakistan and Iraq.[94] The initial "good blood" between them was something rarely seen between a president-elect and his defeated rival.[94]President Obama's inauguration speech contained an echo of one of McCain's favorite themes, the importance that people have "a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves."[95]

Regarding the Obama economic stimulus package of 2009, McCain said "I think we are clearly prepared to sit down, discuss, negotiate a true stimulus package that will create jobs," but opposed the package as proposed by the White House on the grounds that it incorporated federal policy changes that had nothing to do with near-term job creation.[96] McCain emerged as a chief opponent of the package in subsequent discussions, and continued to oppose it even after it was reduced in scope to gain the support of a group of centrist Republicans and Democrats, saying, “We want to stimulate the economy, not mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren by the kind of fiscally profligate spending embodied in this legislation.”[97] McCain continued his opposition to the final version of the bill that passed, saying it represented "generational theft" and complaining that a truly bipartisan approach was not taken towards forming the bill.[98] In early March, McCain helped defeat a version of the Obama administration's Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, on grounds of earmarks.[99]

Overall, McCain was both supporting and opposing the Obama administration in its early days: “I’m the, as I said, loyal opposition. And both words, I think, are operative.”[99]The New York Times opined that McCain was "rewriting the part of presidential loser."[99]

McCain joined Representative Peter T. King of New York in an effort to call for a posthumous pardon for boxing legend Jack Johnson. Johnson was convicted in 1913 for violating the Mann Act in a case that was seen as disapproval of Johnson's relationship with a white woman.[100] McCain supported Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' proposed weapons systems cuts, saying “It has long been necessary to shift spending away from weapon systems plagued by scheduling and cost overruns to ones that strike the correct balance between the needs of our deployed forces and the requirements for meeting the emerging threats of tomorrow.”[101] Many other Republicans opposed these changes.[101] In April 2009, McCain made yet another return visit to Hoa Lo Prison in Vietnam and advocated for stronger military relations between the two nations, as a counterweight to Chinese presence in the South China Sea.[102]

In May 2009, John and Cindy McCain attended the graduation of their son John S. "Jack" McCain IV from the Naval Academy, the fourth generation of John S. McCains to do so.[103] President Obama spoke at the ceremony and gave the new graduate an extra congratulatory gesture.[103]

However, as time went on, it became clear that McCain was less a maverick and more part of the unified Republican opposition to the Obama administration's initiatives.[91] In part this was because the large Democratic majority in the Senate made them less open to deal-making with Republicans on some issues, in part because McCain was still concerned about a primary challenge from a conservative, and in part because McCain still had an edge left over from the campaign.[91] The departure of several key Senate staffers following the campaign may have also been a factor.[91][104] Advisor Mark McKinnon said, "A lot of people, including me, thought he might be the Republican building bridges to the Obama Administration. But he's been more like the guy blowing up the bridges."[91]

In June 2009, McCain criticized Obama for not taking a stronger public stance regarding the disputed Iranian presidential election: "People are being killed and beaten in the streets of Tehran and all over Iran, and we should stand up for them."[105] McCain allied with Obama and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in co-sponsoring an amendment to remove additional production of the F-22 Raptor from a Senate military authorization bill in July 2009.[106] After the removal succeeded, McCain said in reference to defense procurement, “[this] really means there’s a chance of us changing the way we do business in Washington.”[106]

By August 2009, McCain had over 1.1 million followers of his Twitter account.[107] He has called Twitter "a phenomenal way of communicating."[107] He also continued to appear frequently on one of his favorite platforms of the past, the Sunday morning network news interview shows.[91] The same month, McCain voted against confirmation of Obama's Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor; after being undecided for a long time,[108] he eventually said, "There is no doubt that Judge Sotomayor has the professional background and qualifications that one hopes for in a Supreme Court nominee.... [but] I do not believe that she shares my belief in judicial restraint."[109] Through this point in 2009, McCain had sided with the Republican Party in closely divided votes more often than he had during any point of his senatorial career.[110] Following fellow Senator Edward M. Kennedy's death towards the end of the month, McCain spoke at his friend's wake, recalling their sometime battles in the Senate which would be followed by "that infectious laugh of his that could wake the dead and cheer up the most beleaguered soul. The place won't be the same without him."[111] McCain opposed Obama's health care plan, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, saying "Americans have made it abundantly clear that they do not want government taking over their health-care decisions."[91] He also opposed bipartisan efforts to forge a climate change bill, despite having made a name for himself earlier in the decade with similar proposals and despite his frequent allies Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman being present in the effort.[104] In November 2009, Senator McCain also joined with many of his Republican colleagues in the first failed filibuster against an Obama judicial nominee, David Hamilton.[112][113] Two of the Republicans, McCain and Lindsey Graham, had been members of the "Gang of 14"; McCain did not explain his vote in terms of the "extraordinary circumstances" clause of that agreement,[112] but Graham said Hamilton's views were "so far removed from the mainstream" that a vote against cloture was warranted.[114]

In September 2009, as the debate about the proper U.S. course of action in the Afghanistan War grew, McCain wrote with colleagues Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman that: "Growing numbers of Americans are starting to doubt whether we should have troops in Afghanistan and whether the war there is even winnable. We are confident that not only is it winnable, but that we have no choice. We must prevail in Afghanistan."[115] McCain told Obama at an October 2009 meeting at the White House that he should make a decision quickly and not engage in a "leisurely process", which brought rebukes from Obama and Senator Carl Levin.[91] A month later, he said he was “angry” and “disappointed” with President Obama for not having yet made a decision on whether troop levels in Afghanistan should be ramped up.[116] He also harshly criticized Obama for scrapping construction of the US missile defense complex in Poland.[91]

Making reference to the 2009 general election campaign season and upcoming 2010 congressional elections, McCain made efforts to shape the Republican Party in a way that would support not just conservatives but also conservative pragmatists and moderates.[117] This is a context in which Glenn Beck and other media voices and groups were tending to push the Republicans in a more purist ideological direction.[118] In November 2009, publication of Palin's memoir Going Rogue: An American Life sparked much public discussion of her complaints against the McCain campaign, but he said, “I’ve moved on, I’m proud of everybody in the campaign, I’m proud of her. I’ve got a state with the second worst economy in the nation, and that’s what my work and focus is on.”[119]

2010 and Senatorial re-election campaign[edit]

In its January 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a central element of McCain-Feingold, that which limited corporations and unions from candidate-related advertising in the closing period of an election.[120] In response, McCain said, “I am disappointed by the decision of the Supreme Court and the lifting of the limits on corporate and union contributions.”[121] His muted reaction compared to Feingold's was in the context of virtually all other Republicans exulting in the court's decision.[121]

A November 2009 Rasmussen Reports poll had surprisingly shown that former Congressman J. D. Hayworth was nearly even with McCain among likely Republican Party primary voters in the state, indicating that a primary challenge might be a serious danger to McCain.[122] Hayworth's February 2010 declaration of entry into the Arizona senate led Simcox to drop his campaign and endorse Hayworth, saying that he wanted to present a united conservative front against McCain.[123] The primary challenge helped account for McCain's sometimes awkward reversals or mutings of past stances on issues such as the bank bailouts, national security, campaign finance reform, creation of a national debt commission, and gays in the military.[124][125] Hayworth said, "John is undergoing a campaign conversion."[124] The changes were pronounced enough to cause Newsweek's David Margolick to write: "His dramatic shifts raise several questions: How much of his maverick persona over the years has been real and how much simply tactical? Is he in the midst of some struggle for his soul, or is this evolution simply the latest example, dating back to his days at the Hanoi Hilton, of McCain doing whatever it takes to survive? Is the anger people sense in him anger at Obama, or the American electorate, or fate, or himself? And if, as seems likely, John McCain goes on to serve another term, which John McCain will it be?"[125]

With Hayworth using the campaign slogan "The Consistent Conservative", McCain backed off his reputation for unorthodoxy, saying (despite his own past use of the term),[126] "I never considered myself a maverick. I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities."[125] McCain sought to repair the many breaches with state party officials that had occurred over the years.[125] Despite being opposed by elements of the Tea Party movement (while other elements declined to endorse either candidate), McCain remained strong among party centrists and independents, and had solid financial resources.[124][126] Sarah Palin staged a campaign appearance with him in March 2010 and said that McCain was deserving of support among Tea Party movement types, although many in the crowd came to see her rather than him and were unsure of who they would vote for in the primary.[127]

When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, finally passed Congress and became law in March 2010, McCain strongly opposed the landmark legislation not only on its merits but also on the way it had been handled in Congress. As a consequence, he warned that congressional Republicans would not be working with Democrats on anything else: "There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year. They have poisoned the well in what they've done and how they've done it."[128] In response, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs compared McCain to a six-year-old child who wants to take his toys and go home.[129] McCain subsequently backed off that stance as it related to matters of national security.[125] McCain supported Arizona SB1070, which gained national attention as attracted national attention as the broadest and strictest anti-illegal immigration measure in decades within the United States, only hours before its passage in April 2010,[130] then became a vocal defender of the nationally controversial measure, saying that the state had been forced to take action given the federal government's inability to control the border.[126][131]

Hayworth's campaign began to struggle when infomercials he had made in 2007 came to light, which had pitched access to free government payment programs from a company that was accused of swindling thousands of people.[132][133] McCain ran television ads that labelled Hayworth a "huckster", and in return Hayworth's wife charged McCain with engaging in deliberate character assassination.[132] Hayworth also had difficulty rallying conservative backing due to his past support for Congressional earmarks and for his past associations with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.[132] McCain spent about $20 million on the campaign, vastly exceeding the expenditures of his opponent.[133] In the August 24 primary, McCain beat Hayworth by a 56 to 32 percent margin.[133]

In September 2010, McCain led a successful filibuster of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011, which included a measure to allow repeal of the "Don't ask, don't tell" law regarding gays in the military.[134][135] McCain said that the debate on "Don't ask, don't tell" should wait until a Department of Defense survey on the views of the military towards repeal of it was published and that efforts to attach amendments to the authorization were politically motivated by the upcoming midterm elections.[134][135] The dispute over the repeal threatened to prevent the authorization bill from passing for the first time since 1952.[135]

On November 2, 2010, McCain easily defeated Democratic city councilman Rodney Glassman in the general election to win a fifth term in the U.S. Senate.[136] McCain took 59 percent of the vote as against Glassman's 35 percent.

During the lame duck session of the 111th Congress, McCain opposed many of the high-profile legislative measures supported by Obama. He did vote for the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, a compromise worked out between the president and the Republican leadership that centered around extending the Bush tax cuts for two years, saying it contained "unneeded, unnecessary, unwanted sweeteners" and that "I'll vote for it, but it's not what the people said they wanted done on November 2nd."[137][138] But he voted against the DREAM Act, legislation that he had initially sponsored; it failed 55–41 to gain cloture.[139] He voted against ratification of the New START treaty, which succeeded on a 71–26 vote.[140] He played a role in getting the large omnibus spending bill for the forthcoming year defeated.[141] Most prominently, he continued to lead the losing fight against "Don't ask, don't tell" repeal, despite the military study he had been waiting for generally casting repeal in a positive light.[141] In his opposition, he sometimes fell into anger or hostility on the Senate floor.[141] The repeal passed by a 65–31 vote, and McCain invoked culture war images – "Today is a very sad day. There will be high-fives over all the liberal bastions of America, [from] the elite schools that bar military recruiters from campus [to] the salons of Georgetown."[139] – and warned of dire consequences: "Don't think that it won't be at great cost ... [it will] probably harm the battle effectiveness which is so vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military."[141] In general, McCain was critical of the session, saying the measures Obama was pushing were against the will of the people and that "this bizarro world that the majority leader has been carrying us in [maybe] will require another election."[141]


McCain was sworn into his fifth term as U.S. Senator on January 3, 2011. While control of the House of Representatives went over to the Republicans, the Senate stayed Democratic and McCain continued to be the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. McCain also continued to be a frequent guest on the Sunday morning talk shows.

As the Arab Spring took center stage in the early parts of 2011, McCain urged that embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

McCain's Senate web site from 2003 through 2006 prominently illustrated his concern about pork barrel spending.

McCain speaking in Senate against earmarking, February 2007

McCain's official 2009 portrait
Senator McCain listening to President Obama speak about government contracting reform in March 2009

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