John McCain with a bit of verbal acrobatics on CNN's American Morning, trying to say the stimulus package was a failure while decrying the "politics" being played when Ray LaHood told his Governor they were free to follow McCain and Kyl's advice and turn down the money for Arizona.
CHETRY: All right. Republicans are hitting the Obama administration hard, not only over the cost of overhauling health care, but also the stimulus plan. Whether it's working effectively and whether it's worth the billions it cost. In Arizona, it turned up to a dustup between one senator and members of the administration, and now Senator John McCain is joining that fight over whether the stimulus spending should be outright canceled. Senator John McCain is joining us live from Capitol Hill this morning.
Good to have you with us again, senator. Thanks for being here.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, Kiran.
CHETRY: Well, you know, your fellow senator, Arizona's Jon Kyl, has said that the stimulus should be canceled. He called it a failure. Do you think that we should stop the spending?
MCCAIN: Jon Kyl was on a talk show on Sunday, talking about how the stimulus has failed, which it has, and only 10 percent of the money has been distributed, and the predictions of the administration were there would be eight percent unemployment. We're now at 9.5 percent, headed for 10.
So, in an arrogant use of power, the president's chief of staff, Mr. Rahm Emanuel, told four cabinet secretaries to send a letter to our governor and ask her if she wanted the money or not. Now, our governor is right in the middle of a fiscal crisis and doesn't need that kind of harassment. So, the point is that the money has been, is being spent. The money has been allocated, and it is a failure and that's what Jon Kyl was talking about. And what Rahm Emanuel did was an arrogant use of power, that's all.
CHETRY: Well, what you're referring to is letters that went out to the governor of Arizona. One of them came from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican, who wrote that if you prefer to forfeit the money we are making available to your state as Senator Kyl suggests, please let me know.
But politics aside, do you think Arizona should say...
MCCAIN: Astonishing that they are making available? My state of Arizona is a donor state. We send more money to Washington than it sends back, so secretary of transportation is making available to Arizona our own money? I tell you, that's a remarkable statement. A remarkable statement.
CHETRY: What I'm wondering, though, is so we have Jon Kyl criticizing the stimulus, and saying that it's failing.
MCCAIN: As have I, and it is.
CHETRY: Right. And both senators from the state are saying that. So, what about perhaps putting your money...
MCCAIN: We're saying it failed.
CHETRY: What about putting your money where your mouth is and, OK, let's not take any money.
MCCAIN: We are saying that it failed, it has failed by any measurement. And by the way, one of the cabinet secretaries told me over the phone in these words that the letter that was sent is political b.s. That's what he said to me. And you know what? He's right.
CHETRY: So, do you think that the administration is out for political revenge for those who that don't agree...
MCCAIN: Of course.
CHETRY: With the stimulus?
MCCAIN: Of course. Why else would the present chief of staff, in the midst of all of the issues that we have, take time out to order four cabinet secretaries to send a letter to the governor of the state of Arizona trying to put her and Senator Kyl in a very uncomfortable position? That's - it's ridiculous.
CHETRY: Let's get back to the actual dollar amounts. Because it's no secret many states are struggling right now. As you said, Arizona one of them. According to the administration, they would be giving at least $521 million intended to go toward transit projects in your state. Another $45 million for housing loans, and some $73 million, I guess, that would be coming from HUD. Would you be willing to give up that kind of money for your state?
MCCAIN: I'm very concerned about the fact that with the Medicaid increases contemplated in the health bill that just went through the United States Senate committee, which I said would be putting billions of additional costs onto the state of Arizona and other states around America, which the governors just last weekend said they simply could not afford. Which is another reason why the health care plan as propounded by the president is failing in the minds of the American people.
CHETRY: Back to the stimulus money, though. For and you Jon Kyl...
MCCAIN: It's our tax dollars, and we obviously feel very strongly that we don't want our tax dollars wasted, especially Arizona's tax dollars. We send more money to Washington. The bill has been passed, the money is being distributed. Unfortunately, only 10 percent of it, and that is the case. But the stimulus has been a failure and everybody knows it.
CHETRY: So your governor, Jan Brewer, did put up on the Web site, where this money is going. Saying it's going to protect some of (INAUDIBLE), it's going to grow Arizona's future, it's going to create jobs. The mayor of Phoenix, who is a Democrat, says that he needs the money to build roads and to put people to work. They're on the frontlines of these, are they wrong?
MCCAIN: I'm sure they're probably - of course, they are correct in that the money will be of some help. It has been a failure and it is an outright failure and that's undeniable.
CHETRY: I want to ask you one other quick question.
MCCAIN: And, again, this politicization of this issue is totally unnecessary and our conversation, frankly about this is unnecessary because if those letters hadn't been written, we wouldn't be having this conversation. We would be focusing on the F-22 $1.75 billion unnecessary cost that we are voting on this morning. We'd be talking about health care, which is now aroused most Americans now are very skeptical if not outright opposed to it.
CHETRY: Yes, Michael Steele called it an experiment. He called it socialism, talking about the health care plan that's out there right now in the House. Do you agree?
MCCAIN: I have my own opinions on most issues now, and I'll be glad to give you my opinions, and I appreciate the opportunity to do so. This costs too much, taxes too much, and spends too much and the American people are becoming very aware of it. This Congressional Budget Office judgment, which was an act of courage by the director of the Congressional Budget Office, shows that this does nothing for reducing the costs of health care in America which is really the problem with health care in America, not the quality, but the cost of it. And that's why the most respected organization - one of the most respected in America, the Mayo Clinic, has come out strongly opposed to this proposal.
CHETRY: And senator, so you have the president out there. He's been out all week. He's going to be speaking again, trying to push this health care plan. He wants it passed before the August recess in Congress. Do you see that happening?
MCCAIN: Well, I hope not, but I do not underestimate the power of the president and the fact that they have large majorities in both houses of Congress. But I think the American people are waking up to how dangerous this is not only for the future of health care in America, but our fiscal future.
CHETRY: All right. Senator John McCain joining us this morning.
MCCAIN: Thank you. CHETRY: Thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.
MCCAIN: Thank you.