WASHINGTON - Republican John McCain says there will be no additional taxes during his administration if he is elected president.
McCain told ABC's "This Week" that under no circumstances would he increase taxes.
"No new taxes," the probable GOP presidential nominee said during a taped interview broadcast yesterday. His words brought to mind the phrase uttered by George H.W. Bush at the 1988 Republican National Convention: "Read my lips: No new taxes."
The senator from Arizona added that he could "see an argument, if our economy continues to deteriorate, for lower interest rates, lower tax rates, and certainly decreasing corporate tax rates." He would also consider giving people the ability to write off depreciation and eliminating the alternative minimum tax.
McCain was defending his support for an extension of tax cuts sought by President Bush, which McCain voted against. McCain now says allowing the tax breaks to expire would amount to an unacceptable tax increase.
Later yesterday, the Democratic Party criticized McCain's statements on continuing the tax cuts, saying his policies would not differ from the past eight years under the Bush administration.
"John McCain showed today that he is about as far from a maverick as they come," said Karen Finney, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee.
McCain's "no new taxes" statement marked a turnaround. In September, he was forced to defend his refusal to sign a no-new tax pledge offered by the conservative Americans for Tax Reform.
"I stand on my record," he said during a televised debate in Durham, N.H.
The leading contender for his party's presidential nomination, McCain blamed what he called out of control spending for a lack of enthusiasm among Republican voters.
"Spending restraint is why our base is not energized," he said. "I think it's very important that we send a signal to the American people we're going to stop the earmark pork-barrel spending."
McCain said the $35 billion worth of spending on earmarked projects that Bush signed into law in the last two years amounts to a $1,000 tax credit for every child in America, and would have been better for the economy if spent that way. McCain also said he was open to the idea of helping homeowners facing foreclosure, provided they were "legitimate borrowers" and not "engaged in speculation."
He said Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, should have moved more quickly to cut interest rates to head off a recession. He said the country was "very close" to a recession.
"I personally would have liked to have seen those rate cuts earlier," McCain said. "That doesn't mean I want him fired, it doesn't mean I've lost confidence." Bernanke will be up for reappointment in 2010.
Wall Street expects the Federal Reserve to cut rates another half point by March 18. It cut the overnight lending rate for banks by a half-point to 3 percent Jan. 30.