WASHINGTON – Presidential hopeful John McCain on Monday stressed the need to fight wasteful government spending and held fellow Republicans accountable for Washington excess.
"We did some good things," the four-term Arizona senator said in prepared remarks. "But we left some big things undone because they were too hard and too politically risky."
McCain said the GOP forgot "who we were: tight-fisted stewards of the federal treasury who keep our priorities straight. We asked Americans to make us the governing party, and we rewarded them by becoming the party of government."
The senator was slated to speak at the University of Memphis in Tennessee, the second policy address of three intended to inject momentum into his campaign.
On economic issues, McCain typically earns high marks from fiscal conservatives for his longtime campaign against wasteful spending and lawmakers' pet projects. However, critics take issue with his position on taxes. McCain opposed Bush's tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 but now advocates extending them because, he says, doing otherwise would amount to a tax increase.
Since the November elections, in which Republicans lost control of both the House and Senate, McCain has eviscerated his own party for excessive spending.
He also assailed Democratic leaders in Congress for trying to use a bill intended to pay for the Iraq war to set a deadline to withdraw troops. He said when Democratic leaders couldn't get the votes they needed, "they bought them," by promising money for lawmakers' pet projects.
Additionally, McCain promised to veto "every single pork barrel bill" lawmakers send him, said he would review each agency to eliminate obsolete government programs, and vowed to balance the federal budget.
"I'm not running for president to preside over our decline," he said.
He also said he would change the tax code to make it simpler and fairer, and revamp Social Security and Medicare.
More broadly, McCain called for lifting barriers to trade.
"Opening new markets for American goods and services is indispensable to our future prosperity," he said. "We can compete with anyone." However, he noted the downside to more open markets, saying that he recognizes that not every person in the United State will benefit.
Mindful of such workers, McCain ridiculed the current unemployment system as being "straight out of the 1950s" and said it wasn't relevant to today's world.
He said he'd make overhauling it a priority to make it focused on "retraining, relocating and assisting workers who have lost a job that's not coming back to find a job that won't go away."