Jan. 26, 2010 -- Sen. John McCain will support President Obama's plan to freeze much of the federal budget for the next three years, but said the president must also promise to veto any bills that are stuffed with pork barrel spending items.
McCain, R-Ariz., told "Good Morning America" today that he's in favor of Obama's plan to announce a partial spending freeze when he releases his proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 next Monday.
"We need to do it," McCain told "GMA's" anchor George Stephanopoulos. "I think it's important and I'll support it. But the president has to promise to veto bills that are laden with pork barrel spending.
The Obama administration estimates the freeze, which would be imposed on non-security discretionary spending, would save $250 billion over the next decade.
McCain said a freeze wasn't enough and that Obama should resist a $90 billion jobs stimulus bill that is making its way through Congress.
"The Senate and House are looking at $100 billion or more of new spending just on 'stimulus'... sending bad money after good in an effort to stimulate the economy," the 2009 Republican presidential nominee said.
"The president has to commit to vetoing any of these appropriation bills that have earmarks or pork barrel spending on them. That means taking on Democrats and Republicans."
Instead of spending more taxpayer funds in an effort to stimulate jobs, McCain said he would prefer to see Obama stimulate the economy by cutting taxes.
"Tax cuts, giving more tax incentives and breaks to small businesses, making sure we do not raise taxes, which may happen if the present tax cuts lapse," he said. "There's a lot of things that we can do, including a path to some kind of fiscal sanity."
"If you cut people's taxes I think it stimulates the economy," he added. "We certainly found that out with President Reagan."
Obama declined to rule out any new taxes during an exclusive interview with "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer on Monday. When asked whether he could guarantee there would not be any additional taxes on anyone making less than $250,000, Obama replied, "I can guarantee that the worst thing we could do would be to raise taxes when the economy is still this weak."
The president and his team have said for months that he would address budget deficits in his State of the Union address this Wednesday, knowing that the massive spending in the Wall Street bailout and stimulus package makes many Americans uneasy.
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The administration is defining security-related discretionary spending – which will not be impacted by this freeze – as spending related to the Pentagon, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security, and on international affairs.
"We are at war and we're going to make sure our troops are funded at an adequate level," a senior administration official said.
The base level of non-security discretionary spending for Fiscal Year 2010 is $477 billion. From 2011 through 2013, a senior administration official said, spending "will be no higher than that."
In his "GMA" interview, McCain said he remained opposed to the reappointment of Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve because Bernanke "was there at the casino when all the gambling was going on." McCain, however, did not indicate there were enough votes to block the appointment.
The senator also sparred long distance with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who recently criticized McCain for his sharp partisan attacks on administration policies. Reid said he was "amazed" McCain wasn't more of a statesman.
"Harry Reid attacked me and my temperament and my character during the campaign," said McCain, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. "That's rather typical of Harry Reid."
He noted that Reid had previously accused him and other Republicans of being like those who had opposed the abolition of slavery.
"That's sort of his modus operandi these days," McCain said.