OTR Interviews

McCain: Obama Jobs Bill a 'Campaign Ploy'

Ariz, senator on Obama's deficit plan and proposed $1 trillion savings from the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 20, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Arizona Senator John McCain goes "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: The Jobs Act -- the president wants to pay for it and he has sent up his methodology to pay for it. What do you think about it?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I think the whole thing is unfortunate because it's clearly a campaign ploy. The president keeps going around the country saying, Pass it now. Pass what? You know that they have not sent over legislation that they want us to pass? One of the reasons is because there are a number of Democrat senators who are up in the 2012 election who are very nervous about something like this.

The second thing about it, I think is it's obvious this bash the rich, class warfare kind of thing that has not worked in the past, and I don't think it's working now. Greta, in I think it was 1968, I'm not sure, they were worried about a small number of millionaires that -- and so that we passed this thing called the Alternate Minimum Tax, that very rich people would pay a certain amount. That now affects some three million Americans. And every year, we have to defer it because of the devastating effects that it would have.

So what it is, is that when the president gave his speech at the Congress the other night, where you and I both attended, the key phrase was, I will go to all four corners of America in this effort, because it's clear that it's now a campaign ploy. And I look forward to the announcement that Mr. Buffett will send a billion-dollar check to the treasury because I know of nothing that would keep him from doing so.


VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that was clearly a gimmick. You know, I mean -- Warren Buffett's out there acting like everyone's preventing him from paying extra taxes. I mean, that's...

MCCAIN: He can pay as much as he wants.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I think -- I assume that backfires because, you know, if -- you know, that everyone knows you can volunteer to pay extra money. That's fine. But there's this concept of fair share. And that's been going on -- I remember hearing it first in about 1992 from President Clinton, that the rich had to pay their fair share. And I'm always (INAUDIBLE) what -- has anyone ever defined what "fair share" -- what does that mean? Is it by dollar amount? Because if it's by dollar amount, they do. If it's by percentage...

MCCAIN: By dollar amount or percentage, the wealthiest Americans pay the majority of taxes in America.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now. Already.

MCCAIN: Now. And you could argue that they need to pay more. You can argue that. Or you can argue, and I think legitimately, that there are loopholes that are exploited. I understand that. But to somehow say that wealthy Americans are not paying a large amount of taxes is contradictory to the facts. And as you know, there are a large number of Americans -- and I'm not unhappy about it -- lower-income Americans who pay no taxes. Now, they still pay sales tax, excise taxes and a lot of other taxes. But there's a large percentage, I think 47 percent of Americans, who pay no income taxes, so...

VAN SUSTEREN: But this is a revenue issue. You raise that, but this is a revenue issue that while everyone is focusing on -- on the -- on, like, you know, to get more money, no one's thinking that if we could possibly, you know, get more jobs, I mean, legitimately get more jobs -- I mean, now we're two-and-a-half years into this administration, where if we could get some of these communities working, they would be paying more income! And so revenue would be less of an issue. So we have this fight over this revenue.

MCCAIN: Which means that we should put a moratorium on most regulations, that we should fix the tax code to make it fair and close the loopholes and have, say, three tax categories, and do the things that would give the businesses large and small in America the confidence to go ahead and invest and hire.

Any businessperson you will talk to, whether large or small, will say, I'm holding back. I'm sitting on a lot of cash because I don't know when the next regulation is coming down. And despite what the president said, there have been billions of dollars, billions and billions of dollars in new regulations which cost businesses the ability to keep that money and save, but most importantly, to have the confidence to invest and hire.

VAN SUSTEREN: If that is so, I mean, don't you think business leaders, Democratic business leaders are saying the same thing to the president? See, this is -- because, you know, I would think that because there are a lot of very wealthy Democrats, business leaders, who I imagine if you're saying what's so, and I've heard the same thing, is that aren't they saying to the president or to their senators or something about these -- about the moratorium on regulations?

MCCAIN: I think a lot of them are. And there has been lip service paid to regulations. The president did negate one very big environmental regulation which would have really hurt a lot of utilities, including my own state.

But when you look at the continued flow of thousands of pages of regulation that come out of the bureaucracy -- let me give you the best example. If the president were serious, he would say to the NLRB, the National Labor Relations Board, Do not do what you just did in the Boeing case. Boeing makes planes in Seattle. They had trouble with labor. They want to open a factory in South Carolina.

VAN SUSTEREN: A second one, not -- not in lieu of.

MCCAIN: Not in lieu of.

VAN SUSTEREN: This is extra.

MCCAIN: A second one.


MCCAIN: And the National Labor Relations Board says they can't do it. Now, you're the head of Boeing. What are you going to do? Maybe you can't go to South Carolina. You don't want to stay in Seattle. Where are you going to go? You're going to go overseas! Right? And so it's just crazy!

I have never in my career heard of such a move by an unelected bureaucracy that basically tells a corporation, one of the world's largest corporations, that they can't go to a state to establish a factory and hire people to work there! It is crazy!

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think President Obama is saying, like, to the NLRB? Or what do you think (INAUDIBLE) does he just have a -- I mean, if there's -- if you're so certain of what you say -- and I talked -- and of course, President Obama won't talk to me. I'd love to interview him, but he won't, so I've got to ask you these questions. But you know, what do you think he's saying? What would he say in response?

MCCAIN: I don't know what he possibly could say about this NLRB decision because, frankly, I never imagined such a decision would be made by an unelected bureaucracy. Certainly, a law could never have been passed to mandate such a thing.

Now, the president is, one, inexperienced. And two, I think that he has this idea of, you know, spread the wealth around and that rich people ought to pay more. I don't know why. I don't know why.

VAN SUSTEREN: But he's almost -- I mean, if you look at it...

MCCAIN: I stumbled around enough to say I don't know because he's never shared his views with me, except in a debate format.

VAN SUSTEREN: But if you look at the numbers, though, with unemployment -- you know, it's unlikely he can turn around unemployment in the next 13 months before election. If you look at all the -- you know, the housing starts, all the economic indicators, they're really bad. And if I were in his shoes and I were looking to get reelected, I would try something new or different because he's really running out of time. In the meantime, we're all waiting.

MCCAIN: Cut the corporate tax rate, close the loopholes, give the business community some confidence as to what the future is going to be, put a moratorium on regulations. And also, give the employer and employees a tax break. And those at least would be an excellent beginning.

But give business some kind of surety as to what kind of future they face, and I guarantee you they will unleash it. There's a trillion dollars sitting overseas. Why not tell the corporations that are keeping that trillion dollars overseas, Look, if you'll show us a plan where you'll invest that trillion dollars in the United States and hire employees, then we'll let you bring that money back and you won't have to pay taxes on it. Why not do that? Otherwise, they're going to leave it over there.

Business in America is sitting on $1.5 trillion. They're not investing and they're not hiring because, again, of the uncertainty. And that's not John McCain's word. I ask -- your viewers, many who are small business people, go ahead and e-mail Greta as to whether I'm telling you the truth -- telling her the truth or not. I think you're going to get a lot of e-mails.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I hope they do -- I do -- I do hope they e-mail because, you know, I'd love to know. I'd like to even know the other side of it, and I have a hard time getting that information.

All right, troop withdrawals. What do you think about the president's plan to withdraw troops?

MCCAIN: They have said that it's not the case. But it's published and it's in all the media the fact they're going to withdraw to 3,000 troops. I would rather have no troops than 3,000 troops because we'd just -- we'd be putting Americans in harm's way, as we did in Beirut, as we did in Somalia and we have other times in our history.

It's not enough. We need at least 10,000 to 13,000 troops on the border between Kurdistan and Iraq -- it's very dangerous -- for technical and intelligence capabilities and to help with their air force. No military person has recommended a low number such as 3,000.

VAN SUSTEREN: So when do we hear? I mean, like, you know, we read in the media it's down to 3,000. I mean, is it that the president doesn't yet -- hasn't yet made the decision or it's strategically unwise to tell us this? Or is there a reason why we don't know what the troop withdrawal is going to be? And you might be the wrong person to ask, again, but he won't talk to me!

MCCAIN: But the -- we're nearing the end of the year when all American troops are supposed to be out. We're now two months -- we're getting close to two months -- October, November, December -- three months away. So...

VAN SUSTEREN: So do you think he's decided, just doesn't tell us yet? And he may not -- I mean, he doesn't have to, I guess, but...

MCCAIN: I don't know, but he has to tell the Congress because there has to be funding or no funding or whatever it is. For a long time, the Iraqis have been willing to sit down and negotiate this number. Each time, there has been a failure of the administration to come up with a concrete number of what they recommend.

We lost nearly 4,500 young Americans in Iraq. I would hate to see this post-conflict phase cause Iraq to return to a state of chaos or disunity or the kind of bad things that can happen if governments can't function, if the government of Iraq can't function. I'm very concerned about that.

VAN SUSTEREN: When is sort of the drop-dead date that you need to know in terms of the Congress needs to know? What would -- because...

MCCAIN: We're already doing appropriations bills, as you know, and the fiscal year ends on the 1st of October. I thought we would have arrived at this conclusion long ago.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there a problem that you don't know now? I mean, a legitimate military, strategic or even congressional problem that you don't know yet?

MCCAIN: The way this town works is that number 3,000 was leaked. And then there's been a very strong reaction both from Republicans and Democrats on this issue. So I think they may be revisiting the issue and haven't come up with a conclusion yet. The problem is, you've got to get the agreement of the Iraqis, as well, and we are running out of time.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on again.