On today’s Meet the Press, John McCain discussed why he adamantly opposed Bush’s tax cuts and then voted to extend them.

MR. RUSSERT: On tax cuts. You were on this program back in ’03, and I asked you this…

MR. RUSSERT: …”Do you believe the president, because of the war, should be asking Americans for more sacrifice,” “should” not “hold off any future tax cuts”–“should hold off” “any future tax cuts until we have a sense of the costs of the war and the state of our economy?”

“Yes, I do. I believe that until we find out the costs of this war and the reconstruction that we should hold off…”

MR. RUSSERT: “…on tax cuts.”

You came back the next year, I again asked you about opposing the Bush tax cuts…

SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: …and this is what you said.

SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

(Videotape, April 11, 2004)

SEN. McCAIN: I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportional amount that went to the wealthiest Americans. I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order to help address the deficit.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Disproportionate to the wealthiest Americans.

SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: And you didn’t–wouldn’t extend them because it would hurt the deficit. You voted to extend them.

SEN. McCAIN: I voted to extend them because it would have the effect of having a tax increase. I also had a proposal, and also stated time after time, that we needed to restrain spending. The tax cuts have increased revenues enormously. I mean, they’ve been very beneficial. The problem is that spending has lurched completely out of control. My proposal was to restrain spending. And now, if you don’t make them, those tax cuts, permanent, businesses, families, farms all over America will have to experience what, for all intents and purposes, the impact on them would be a tax increase. Would I have like to have seen more tax cuts to middle income Americans? Did I have a different proposal? Yes. But I supported tax cuts, and I have never supported–I have–I do not support tax increases. And the effect of not making them permanent would have the effect of a tax increase.

MR. RUSSERT: But, senator, there’s a suggestion that, when you were running in 2000 and shortly thereafter…

SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: …you were this bold independent willing to stand up against tax cuts, even as a Republican.

SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. I…

MR. RUSSERT: And saying they would increase the deficit. Then you decided, “Well, I got to become more of a traditional Republican,” and you started embracing tax cuts.

SEN. McCAIN: Well, first of all, I had a tax cut proposal of my own which was very, very large and significant. So I didn’t oppose tax cuts. And I’ll show you that in my platform when I ran in 2000. So, I mean, that’s just a fact, and I’ll be glad to show it to you. Second thing is, I believe in tax cuts for Americans because I think it’s important that…

MR. RUSSERT: Even during a war?

SEN. McCAIN: Even during a war. It is not–it is not the tax cuts that’ve caused us the fiscal difficulties we have. In fact, it has increased revenues. It is the spending which has completely lurched out of control, failure to reign in spending, having the government increase in size dramatically with unfunded liabilities. And that is the reason why we are facing the fiscal difficulties that we are today.

MR. RUSSERT: The spending on the war is considerable.

SEN. McCAIN: Spending on the war is considerable. Spending on an unfunded liability and a Medicare part D for 800 billion or a trillion dollars unfunded liability as well. Expanding the size of government as well. Failing to, to veto big spending bills such as a highway bill with $233 million bridge in Alaska to nowhere. Spending has got to be reigned in. Vetoes have got to be issued by the president of the United States. Earmarking has to stop, which not only increases spending but causes corruption in Washington, D.C.

MR. RUSSERT: But as you well know, you well know we keep defense spending, Social Security, Medicare and pensions at their same current rate…

SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: …you could veto every spending measure in all the rest of the government, close it all down, and you’d still have a deficit.

SEN. McCAIN: Sure, but how do you go to–hang–let me respond. How do you go to the American people and say we’re going to have to make some tough decisions here on Social Security and Medicare if we’re spending money on things that are frivolous and unnecessary? We’ve got to go to the American people with clean hands and say, “We’ve tightened our belt. We’ve reduced the size of government. We’ve stopped all this excess spending. We’ve stopped the pork barrel spending. Now let’s sit down together, Republican and Democrat, like Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill did, and let’s solve Social Security and Medicare rather than pass it on to an unluckier generation.”

MR. RUSSERT: When I asked…

SEN. McCAIN: And that’s what I intend to do as president of the United States, and I am prepared to do.

MR. RUSSERT: When I asked you about that in 2005–February 20th on this show…

SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: …I said one of the suggestions is that the payroll tax, which is now capped at $90,000 of income…

SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: …be lifted so the people who pay a payroll tax on more than the first 90,000.

SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: You said you’d be willing to do that as part of a compromise.

SEN. McCAIN: I am…

MR. RUSSERT: Is that still your view?

SEN. McCAIN: The president of the United States has said everything on the table. I am against tax increases, and that’s a well-known position of mine. But I think that, as the president has said, he’ll sit down with everything on the table. Am I opposed to tax increases? Yes. But we’ve got to sit down together and figure out what our options are, and tough decisions have to be made, Republicans and Democrats. And I know how to do that. That’s been my experience in the–as a United States senator, reaching across the aisle, addressing the tough issues in a bipartisan fashion where bipartisanship is called for.