Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says in a wide-ranging interview aired Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that President Barack Obama needs to “be more specific” about his prescription for health reform.
“I think they may have over-learned the lesson of the Clinton proposal in ’93, where there were totally specific proposals.,” McCain said. “Now there’s not enough. “At this point, I think the administration and the president has to be more specific.”
In an interview taped Friday on Capitol Hill, McCain said his general-election opponent is “not changing the climate in Washington” as promised.
McCain said he has “not seen” a “public option,” or government plan, he could support.
“The co-ops remind us all of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” he told anchor John King. “And so I have not seen a public option that, in my view, meets the test of what would really not eventually lead to a government take over.”
King asked McCain if Obama has “failed the test he laid out at [an inaugural] dinner, to be truly bipartisan.”
“I’m afraid they have,” McCain replied. “And, look, they’ve got the votes. We understand that. They had the votes in the stimulus package, in the budget, in the omnibus, in the SCHIP [children’s health insurance], all this legislation. And they have picked off, sometimes, two or three Republicans.
“But that’s not changing the climate in Washington. What that is, is exercising a significant majority. And so I respect their successes, but please don’t call it changing the climate in Washington.”
Sen. John McCain welcomed the delay in Senate action on a health care bill because it allows more time for debate, but he warned that “there are still these irreconcilable differences,” pointing to the cost and the public option.
“I have not seen a public option that in my view meets the test” that it wouldn’t lead to a government takeover of health care, he added.
McCain said that so far Republicans have been shut out of the process.
“Unfortunately there was no input by Republicans in writing the bill in the HELP Committee,” he said. “It was all a Democratic proposal. That’s not the way you want to begin if you’re really interested in a true bipartisan result. Maybe we can go back and all of us – and I’d be glad to play a role.”
He said those efforts have to involve “a true sit-down. Not ‘here’s the plan, how can we fix it so it satisfies enough of you and call it bipartisan.'”
In a wide-ranging interview, McCain criticized Obama’s lack of specifics on what he wants in a health care bill, saying, “he’s talked about the things that are wrong and need to be fixed,” but hasn’t laid out how he would fix them.
And he offered his take on both the Democratic and Republican parties.
He said the $787 billion stimulus package has been a “handicap” for Democrats as they try to accomplish health care reform.
“The passing of the stimulus package and the huge deficit associated with that, I think harmed their ability to reform health care,” McCain said.
Yet, while raising concerns about the deficit, he also said “it’s very clear that the stimulus has had some affect.”
The Republican senator also said his own party has lost a lot of its base because of its record on government spending, and that the GOP needs to make a strong effort to reach out to Hispanic voters and recruit Hispanics to run for office, or the party will be left behind.
“We have a lot of work to do there,” said McCain, who also expressed a willingness to work with Obama on immigration reform. “We have a very big deep hole that we’ve got to come out of.”
On Iran’s nuclear ambitions, McCain warned that the clock is ticking.
“We want to be very careful about our relationship with the Iranians,” he said. “Time is not on our side.” He noted that the Israelis are becoming “impatient,” and said, “the whole Middle East could be in a very serious crisis.”
McCain also weighed in on decision of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, his 2008 running mate, to resign in the middle of her term, saying “she will continue to be a force.”
“I think she will continue to play a major role in the future of the Republican Party,” McCain said. “And I have to respect the decision she made.”
But, McCain stopped short of saying he’d vote for her in a 2012 presidential race over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.
“I don’t know if all of those are going to run,” he said.
McCain also said that “it appears” the U.S. will need to send more troops to Afghanistan.
KING: “We see that General [Stanley] McChrystal, the new commanding general in Afghanistan, is a little worried about corruption, about the Taliban. And there are indications that he will ask the president of the United States for more troops. Do you believe we need more troops in Afghanistan?”
McCAIN: “I also await General McChrystal’s opinion and our visit. But from everything I’ve seen, it looks like the Afghan Army has to be increased, and significantly. And that’s going to be a huge cost. And it appears as if we need more troops. But I’d continue to be guided — to a large degree — by the commanders on the ground and their view — not strictly dictated, but they’re the ones that really have the responsibility to a great extent. And General [David] Petraeus was right on Iraq and I think Gen. McCrystal will be correct on Afghanistan.”