How Obama, McCain voted on important issues - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

How Obama, McCain voted on important issues

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Posted: Saturday, October 11, 2008 6:04 pm | Updated: 9:28 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama have devoted tens of millions of dollars and countless words to contrasting their policy stands in the eyes of the electorate. Yet a look at voting records in the four years they have served together in the Senate shows far more agreement on major issues than their rhetoric and attack ads would suggest.

One area of striking similarity is high-profile national-security issues other than Iraq, with McCain and Obama both having voted to give permanent status to most sections of the USA Patriot Act, renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act along lines requested by President Bush, prohibit U.S. torture of prisoners and grant retroactive immunity to telecom companies accused of helping the government conduct illegal spying after 9/11.

Another such area is immigration, where both voted to provide America's 12 million-plus illegal immigrants with a path to citizenship and to pass a sweeping reform bill of which legalization, or what critics call amnesty, was one of several parts. The two senators also joined in support of a measure to build 700 miles of fencing at the Mexican border.

Additionally, McCain and Obama both have voted in favor of measures to combat climate change, set stricter rules for Senate ethics, limit congressional earmarks, fund embryonic stem cell research, ban drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve and allow individuals to import prescription drugs from Canada. They both voted against a constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriages and for a bill on class-action lawsuits that was backed by the business community and opposed by trial lawyers.

But for every major Senate vote on which McCain, a Republican, and Obama, a Democrat, joined forces, there were many on which they disagreed.

On Iraq, Obama has voted for and McCain against a series of amendments that sought to fundamentally change administration policy, including proposals to require troop withdrawals and extend intervals between tours of combat duty. In a 2007 procedural vote interpreted as a non-binding statement of opposition to President Bush's newly announced troop "surge," Obama voted yes and McCain did not vote.

McCain and Obama have also voted on opposite sides of such major issues as abortion, trade, tax cuts, energy, bankruptcy, sex education, tobacco taxes, gun manufacturers' legal immunity, health-insurance funding for children and habeas corpus rights for prisoners.

Neither presidential candidate has felt locked in by his voting history. Obama, for example, joined McCain in 2005 in voting to fund construction of the Guantanamo Bay military prison but now wants to close that facility. He voted against offshore oil drilling in 2006 but now favors it as part of an energy package.

McCain in 2005 opposed a spending increase for veterans' health care but today backs full funding of such programs. He originally voted against President Bush's across-the-board tax cuts, but voted to renew them and says he would extend them as president. McCain in 2006 co-sponsored and voted to pass a bill featuring a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants but now ranks law enforcement as his top immigration priority.

Here are summaries of 20 issues that spotlight the presidential candidates' voting records:


Voting 72-26, senators on Feb. 10, 2005, passed a bill that would shift most large class-action suits from state courts, where juries tend to favor plaintiffs, to federal courts, where corporate defendants improve their chances of winning. A yes vote was to pass S5.

McCain and Obama voted yes.


Senators on April 12, 2005, refused, 46-54, to add $1.98 billion for veterans' health care to a bill (HR1268) providing $77 billion for ongoing military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than half of the increment was designated for veterans of those two theaters. A yes vote backed the proposed increase.

McCain voted no. Obama voted yes.


Senators on April 13, 2005, refused, 27-71, to delete $36 million included in a war-funding bill (HR1268) for building a large military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A yes vote was to delete the funds in response to court rulings that had cast doubt on the legality of the U.S. incarceration policy there.

McCain and Obama voted no.


Senators on July 29, 2005, passed, 65-31, a bill (S397) giving gun manufacturers and dealers immunity against most product-liability lawsuits based on the illegal use of firearms. Plaintiffs in such suits were mainly state and local governments and crime victims. The bill sought to ban pending as well as future suits. A yes vote was to pass S397.

McCain voted yes. Obama voted no.


Senators on Oct. 5, 2005, voted, 90-9, to require the U.S. military to adhere to the United Nations Convention Against Torture prohibition against "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," and to follow Army Field Manual rules for humane treatment of prisoners. A yes vote backed the amendment to HR2663.

McCain and Obama voted yes.


Voting 48-51, senators on Nov. 3, 2005, refused to keep the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge off-limits to oil and gas drilling. The vote upheld language in S1932 to permit drilling in about 2,000 acres of the 19 million-acre refuge on the coastal plain of northeastern Alaska. A yes vote opposed ANWR drilling.

McCain and Obama voted yes.


Senators on March 2, 2006, approved, 89-10, a bill giving permanency to most parts of the USA Patriot Act. But sections dealing with roving wiretaps and library, bookstore and business searches were made temporary for four years. A yes vote was to pass HR3199.

McCain and Obama voted yes.


Senators on May 11, 2006, passed, 54-44, a bill to cut taxes by $70 billion over five years, extend the 15 percent rate for dividends and capital gains and stop for one year further creep of the Alternative Minimum Tax into middle-income brackets. A yes vote was to pass HR4297.

McCain voted yes. Obama voted no.


Senators on May 25, 2006, voted, 62-36, to tighten U.S. borders, establish a new guest-worker program, designate English as the national language and provide 90 percent of the 12 million undocumented U.S. residents with legal status and a long road to citizenship. A yes vote was to pass S2611.

McCain and Obama voted yes.


Senators on June 7, 2006, failed, 49-48, to reach the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster against a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions. A yes vote backed a measure stating in part: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman." (SJRes1)

McCain and Obama voted no.


Senators on July 18, 2006, voted, 63-37, to send President Bush a bill (HR810) to extend federal financing of embryonic stem cell research beyond limits he set in 2001. A yes vote backed a bill allowing scientists to utilize thousands of embryos that fertility clinics would otherwise discard.

McCain and Obama voted yes.


Voting 48-51, senators on July 25, 2006, refused to add $100 million annually in federal grants for teens' sex education to a bill (S403) requiring parental notification when a minor is to be transported across state lines for an abortion. A yes vote was to fund instruction on the use of contraceptives and the pill as deterrents to unwanted pregnancies.

McCain voted no. Obama voted yes.


Senators on Aug. 1, 2006, voted, 71-25, to open 8.34 million acres in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling while setting a 125-mile buffer zone between the Florida coast and the drilling area. A yes vote was to pass S3711.

McCain voted yes. Obama voted no.


Senators on Sept. 29, 2006, voted, 80-19, to pass a bill to build 700 miles of two-layered fencing along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. But this bill and companion measures give the Department of Homeland Security leeway to shorten the fencing by hundreds of miles. A yes vote was to pass HR6061.

McCain and Obama voted yes.


Senators on Jan. 18, 2007, rejected, 27-71, an amendment to an ethics bill (S1) that sought to set up an Office of Public Integrity to probe complaints of misconduct by senators and staff. A yes vote was to establish a semi-independent investigative unit armed with subpoena power.

McCain and Obama voted yes.


Senators on Feb. 5, 2007, failed, 49-47, to reach 60 votes for ending GOP delay and opening debate on a non-binding measure in opposition to President Bush's planned deployment of 21,500 more troops to Iraq. A yes vote was to open debate on the measure.

McCain did not vote. Obama voted yes.


Senators on March 23, 2007, voted, 59-40, to raise the U.S. tax on a package of cigarettes from 39 cents to $1 and use the $20 billion in new revenue over five years to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program. A yes vote hiked tobacco taxes. (SCR21)

McCain voted no. Obama voted yes.


Senators on May 24, 2007, refused, 29-66, to strip a pending immigration bill (S1348) of its section providing America's 12 million illegal immigrants with legal status if they pay heavy fines, clear criminal checks and meet other requirements. A yes vote opposed the legalization, or amnesty, plan.

McCain and Obama voted no.


Senators on July 18, 2007, failed, 52-47, to get 60 votes needed to end GOP blockage of a mandate that President Bush start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq within 120 days and finish the pullout of all but a residual force by April 30, 2008. A yes vote was to advance the mandate. (HR1585)

McCain voted no. Obama voted yes.


Senators on March 13 voted, 29-71, to ban earmarks from the fiscal 2009 budget (SConRes70). A yes vote was to impose a one-year ban on earmarks, which are the pet projects lawmakers slip into spending bills, without review, to benefit constituents or campaign donors.

McCain and Obama voted yes.

Richard G. Thomas is editor and publisher of Thomas Voting Reports, the leading news organization in covering congressional voting for U.S. newspapers and online media.

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