Today on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona weighed in on the future of Chuck Hagel’s confirmation process, the looming budget cuts and on his recent town hall. Highlighted excerpts are after the jump.
MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”
Sen. McCain: Obama must lead on budget deal // http://on.cnn.com/XP0OpL
Sen. McCain: Hagel should get up or down vote // http://on.cnn.com/XP1Jq5
Sen. McCain on heated town hall exchange // http://on.cnn.com/135I9uV
On His Recent Town Hall
MCCAIN: Yes. But you know, people — some people say, oh, look at that. That’s what town halls are supposed to be about. That’s why they’re always packed, as you notice. I’ve had town hall meetings for 30 years, and sometimes, they become very spirited. I enjoy them. We don’t screen anybody who comes to our town hall meetings and it gives the people of Arizona a chance.
Now, I didn’t believe that that person was correct with his facts. So, I fired back at him. And people said, good, that’s what we want to hear. This is a debate we want to hear. So, I’m proud of that. And if anybody doesn’t like it, then, you don’t have to come to the town hall meeting.
CROWLEY: Fifteen of your colleagues — I want to switch to Chuck Hagel — nominated to be defense secretary. Fifteen of your colleagues, including Jim Inhofe, sent a letter to the president saying, withdraw this name, there is just many reasons why he should not be secretary of defense? Why didn’t you sign that letter?
MCCAIN: Because I do not believe Chuck Hagel, who is a friend of mine, is qualified to be secretary of defense. But I do believe that elections have consequences, unfortunately, and the president of the United States was re-elected. I believe that when the questions are answered, and I believe they will be by this coming week that the president deserves an up or down vote.
Now, Democrats will say, well, we’ve never done that before. Well, they had. And they did with Bolton and with John Towner (ph) and with others, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give Chuck Hagel an up or down vote. And I think we should.
CROWLEY: As far as you know, is there anything standing between Chuck Hagel and that vote? A hold? Anybody willing to do that? You think this will happen?
MCCAIN: I think it will happen, barring some additional revelation concerning his comments about Israel and all those other really unfortunate things he said in the past.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: That’s exactly what we should be doing. And I won’t put all the blame on the president of the United States. But the president leaves. The president should be calling us over somewhere, Camp David, the White House, somewhere, and sitting down and trying to avert these cuts. Let me just say a word about the cuts really quickly
We have already cut $87 billion out of defense Under Secretary Gates. We are on track to cut another $487 billion already out of defense. Now, you lay on top of that these enormous reductions as well. Then — and by the way, defense is 19 percent of the overall discretionary budget. Defense has taken 50 percent of the cuts.
And if we don’t believe our military leaders, then who in the world do we believe? And I think that what we are doing now to the men and women who are serving is unconscionable, because they deserve a predictable life in the military, and also, these federal employees who don’t know whether they’re going to be laid off or not, not to mention these contracts —