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McCain and Obama: 50 Key Senate Votes

October 15, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

In the three presidential debates between John McCain (R-AZ) and Barack Obama (D-IL), we’ve heard a lot about their voting records in the Senate. Votes on funding the troops in Iraq, stem cell research, equal pay for women, childrens’ health care, and energy policy have been raised by the candidates several times. Here’s a side-by-side look at those votes, plus 45 others, that McCain and Obama have put down on the record during the two sessions of Congress that they were in the Senate.

The votes below are divided into categories very roughly. I selected the votes based on the following criteria: they were brought up in the debates, they mark a significant rift in the candidates’ voting histories, they mark a surprising similarity in the candidates’ voting histories, or they were on highly newsworthy pieces of legislation. I have put notes on the legislation in parentheses where I thought it would be helpful.

Foreign Policy:

Legislation in Question McCain Obama
H.R. 2206 – Iraq War Funding Bill with No Withdrawal Timeline Yes No
H.R. 1591 – Iraq War Funding Bill with a Troop Withdrawal Timeline No Yes
S. Amdt. 2022 to H.R. 1585: To restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States No Yes
S. Amdt. 2087 to H.R. 1585: To specify minimum periods between deployment of units and members of the Armed Forces deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. (require troops to have at least equal time at home as the length of their previous deployment overseas). No Yes
S. Amdt. 2934 to H.R. 1585 To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces. (this is a direct response to’s “”">General Betray Us" ad.) Yes Abstain
S. Amdt. 3875 to H.R. 2764: To provide for the safe redeployment of United States troops from Iraq. (redeploy most troops out of Iraq in 9 months) No Yes
S. Amdt. 2673 to H.R. 2642: To limit the cases in which funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to convert to contractor performance an activity or function of the Department of Veterans Affairs that is performed by more than 10 Federal employees. Yes Abstain
S. 3930 – Military Commissions Act of 2006 Yes No
S. Amdt. 1351 to S. 1042: To stop corporations from financing terrorism. No Yes
S. Amdt. 1977 to H.R. 2863 – Relating to persons under the detention, custody, or control of the United States Government. (sponsored by McCain, this amendment prohibits torture by confining military interrogations to the techniques in the U.S. Army Field Manual on Interrogation). Yes Yes


Legislation in Question McCain Obama
H.R. 1424 – Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (aka the Bailout Bill) Yes Yes
S. Amdt. 116 to H.R. 2: To afford States the rights and flexibility to determine minimum wage (repeal the federal minimum wage by allowing states to set their own minimum wages) Yes No
S. Amdt. 3013 to S. Con. Res. 83: Pay-as-you-go Amendment (require that all new spending is offset by an equal revenue increase Yes Yes
S. Amdt. 578 to S. Con. Res. 21 Repeal the Death Tax (aka the Estate Tax) Yes No
S. Amdt. 545 to S. Con. Res. 21: To restore the top marginal tax rate to pre-2001 levels on taxable income in excess of $1 million and use the increased revenue to increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Act Abstain Yes
H.R. 5140 – Recovery Rebates and Economic Stimulus for the American People Act of 2008 (aka the Economic Stimulus Package) Yes Abstain
S. 256 – Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (designed to prevent bankruptcy fraud by making it more difficult to file for bankruptcy) Yes No
S. Amdt. 4347 to S. Con. Res. 70: To establish an earmark moratorium for fiscal year 2009 Yes Yes
H.R. 5970 – Estate Tax and Extension of Tax Relief Act of 2006 Yes No


Legislation in Question McCain Obama
S. 1348 – Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants) Abstain Yes
S. Amdt. 1151 to S. 1348: To amend title 4, United States Code, to declare English as the national language of the Government of the United States, and for other purposes Yes No
S. Amdt. 1384 to S. 1348: To preserve and enhance the role of the English language (states that nothing in the act can be used to diminish or expand any existing rights relative to non-English services or materials provided by the government) No Yes
S. Amdt. 1331 to S. 1348: To clarify the application of the earned income tax credit (Make temporary guest workers eligible for the EIC) No Yes
S. Amdt. 1374 to S. 1348 To improve the criteria and weights of the merit-based evaluation system (put more weight on job skills than family connections) No No
Motion to Table S. Amdt. 4309 to S. Con. Res. 70: To create a reserve fund to ensure that Federal assistance does not go to sanctuary cities that ignore the immigration laws of the United States and create safe havens for illegal aliens and potential terrorists. (since this is a motion to table, things are reversed. So, a “no” vote is a vote to create the fund and a “yes” vote is a vote against the fund) No Abstain


Legislation in Question McCain Obama
H.R. 6 – Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Increase fuel-efficiency standard to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, shifts energy-tax incentives and require electric utilities to use renewable-energy sources for 15 percent of their electricity by 2020. This vote came up in the debates a few times – McCain, I believe, said it was “festooned” with pork) Abstain Yes
S. Amdt. 1704 to H.R. 6: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for energy advancement and investment, and for other purposes (this is a giant package of tax credits for alternative energy) Abstain Yes
S. Amdt. 1519 to H.R. 6 To amend the Sherman Act to make oil-producing and exporting cartels illegal (aka NOPEC) Abstain Yes
S. Amdt. 168 to S. Con. Res. 18: To strike section 201(a)(4) relative to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (this is a vote to keep ANWR closed to drilling) Yes Yes
S. Amdt. 784 to H.R. 6 (109th): To improve the energy security of the United States and reduce dependence on foreign oil imports by 40 percent by 2025 No Yes


Legislation in Question McCain Obama
S. 5 – Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 (allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research) Yes Yes
H.R. 976 – Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 (S-CHIP reauthorization and expansion) No Yes
S. Amdt. 2535 to H.R. 976 To codify the unborn child rule. (Define a fetus as an “unborn child”) Yes No
S. Amdt. 510 to S. Con. Res. 21: To provide for the consideration of an increase in the tobacco products user fee rate, but only to the extent that such rate increase does not result in an increase of more than 61 cents per pack of cigarettes, with all revenue generated by such increase dedicated to the reauthorization and expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. No Yes
S. 403 – Child Custody Protection Act (“to prohibit taking minors across State lines in circumvention of laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions”) Yes No
S. Amdt. 3330 to H.R. 3043: To prohibit the provision of funds to grantees who perform abortions Yes Abstain
S. Amdt. 244 to S. Con. Res. 18: To expand access to preventive health care services that reduce unintended pregnancy (including teen pregnancy), reduce the number of abortions, and improve access to women’s health care No Yes

S. Amdt. 4689 to S. 403: To authorize grants to carry out programs to provide education on preventing teen pregnancies, and for other purposes

No Yes


Legislation in Question McCain Obama
S. Amdt. 5064 to H.R. 6304: To strike title II. (Striking telco immunity form the FISA bill) Abstain Yes
H.R. 6304 – To amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 ( with telco immunity included) Abstain Yes
H.R. 800 – Employee Free Choice Act of 2007 No Yes
H.R. 2831 – Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 No Yes
S. 1257 – District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007 No Yes
H.R. 7081 – United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act Yes Yes
S. 397 – Firearms Manufacturers Protection bill Yes No
S. J. Res. 1 – Same Sex Marriage resolution (“A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage”) No No
S Amdt 2287 to HR 3010: To increase appropriations for after-school programs through 21st century community learning centers. No Yes
S. Amdt. 2797 to H.R. 3074 To prohibit the establishment of a program that allows Mexican truck drivers to operate beyond the commercial zones near the Mexican border. Abstain Yes
S. Amdt. 1189 to H.R. 2360: To provide that certain air cargo security programs are implemented, and for other purposes (increases funding for the TSA). No Yes
S. Amdt. 2213 to H.R. 3010: To increase the maximum Federal Pell Grant award by $200 to $4,250. No Yes


Obama and McCain – Legislative Accomplishments

By the Bills: Obama vs. McCain

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  • eostrom 10/16/2008 6:03am

    Thanks, this is terrific.

  • ray_reyes 10/16/2008 6:24am

    yea great stuff… time to read.

  • Anonymous 10/18/2008 12:10pm

    McCain voted NO on C.H.I.P.reauthorization program. Every mother in the United States should hear of this vote. Most mothers would die for their children….and defend their right to receive medical treatment.

  • Anonymous 10/21/2008 5:50am

    When somebody votes no on a bill, there may be one little thing in that bill that he/she doesn’t agree with. So don’t take a “No” vote as a vote against the main premise. Don’t just look at the Yes/No vote, look at the bill itself. It’ll give you some great insight into why they voted the way they did.

  • Anonymous 10/22/2008 4:47pm

    ALL ABOARD! The Stop Obama Express. A great site for Anti-Obama Fun, videos, pictures, quotes and more. Check it out at

  • Moderated Comment

  • paydayloanadvocate 10/23/2008 11:40pm

    Vice Presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been getting more negative attention than positive attention from the media. For example, last Saturday Palin made her late-night entertainment debut on Saturday Night Live. Instead of commending Palin for playing along or mentioning that her appearance gave SNL its highest ratings in 14 years, the press criticized her for her appearance. Palin has been under constant attack; the media has bashed Palin for her performance as Governor of Alaska, the pregnancy of her unmarried 17-year-old daughter, and even her character. The media has stooped to new lows by implying that the United States would self-destruct should Palin have to replace McCain as president. As is typical with unbalanced news-reporting, these attacks are misconstrued half-truths. In fact, Sarah Palin has a large number of admirers who commend her for her persistent effort to improve the state of Alaska. Other admirers point to her unwavering support of the disabled population and her push for the interests of special-needs individuals, like those with autism and Down syndrome. Many more followers put their trust in Sarah Palin because she advocates for personal responsibility and financial freedom. Palin opposes the elimination of cash advances, a legitimate and invaluable resource because people have the right to financial freedoms and the right to choose to get a payday loan.

  • Comm_reply
    Anonymous 10/28/2008 12:39pm

    Except that the constitution is a male gender document and the 19th amendment language does not neutralize the male qualification for becoming president. Unless such male gender language is removed from Article II by amendment, Mrs. Palin is NOT qualified to become president. Thae maxim of law is, “If it is not written, it does not exist”.

  • paydayloanadvocate 10/26/2008 7:58pm

    A person strong principle in life about moral and legal rights really does matters in his personality.
    America was spiraling into a massive recession in 1932 in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the newly elected President. His “New Deal” policies restructured the US economy, and expanded the role of government in an unprecedented fashion. The New Deal worked, in the short term, but caused some lasting long term damage.
    Paul Rubin states in this Wall Street Journal article that the current state of the US economy isn’t in the same shape as in 1932, but many of the same things are there: stock market dropping, credit markets are disappearing, and a popular presidential Democratic candidate – Barack Obama – runs upon a platform that promises to put more governmental regulation on the economy. Obama’s presidency, if elected, will possibly be coupled with a 60 seat majority in the Senate, safe from filibustering, putting the nation as close to a purely liberal government as it ever has been.

  • Anonymous 10/28/2008 10:38pm

    With just a little over a week left before we find out who will serve as our Commander of Chief for the next four years, there are new controversies between both the Democrats and Republicans. Not just the headline news, but the entire media and people across the country are reporting on Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin and her $150,000 spending spree on clothes, makeup and accessories. This story has captured a sudden flow of negative publicity. Although both Palin and Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama have spent large amounts of money on clothing, we should not allow this matter to distract us from the true focus that will affect the future of our country. After all, we live in a society where looks, more than anything, are the prime things that we judge people on. If you have one candidate enfolded in designer clothes, but someone else who looks as if they have a wardrobe from K-Mart’s clearance rack, the scale is beyond balanced. Obama’s TV commercials cost way more than what the Republican National Committee has spent on Palin’s clothes. Besides, it’s probably not a bad political move, considering all the attention Palin is getting with her wardrobe. Clothing is NOT one of the critical issues that we should base our focus on right now. The American people should judge the candidates on their plans for our future, and vote for the candidate that supports American’s right to freedom of choice, personal financial responsibility, and the continued rights to no fax payday loans.
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  • Comm_reply
    Anonymous 11/03/2008 10:28am

    But if she were in k-mart clothes, since we Americans only judge on clothing, it would be completely okay to judge her? Stop making excuses for the governments poor choice of ways to spend money…$150,000 could have bought a pretty damn nice house! Instead it was used to make her look pretty… Obama is spending his money on campaigns so we all know what his plans are, while Palin is getting some designer wear. I’d rather hear what he has to say than envy her for the clothes she has.

  • Anonymous 10/31/2008 1:44pm

    I didn’t respond to anything. I am a democrat, and I used to admire John McCain, until he started using Carl Rove chums to help with his campaign, and I watched him turn into a crazy person. McCain is an angry man with no idea what it means to negotiate. I want an open minded, willing to negotiate, listen to his advisors, non mavrick and calm President, with the back up of someone like Joe Biden in office. Palin is as crazy as McCain and now she is not only a diva but she has gone rouge. Obama is my man!!!

  • Comm_reply
    Anonymous 11/03/2008 10:29am

    HOO-RAH! =)

  • Anonymous 10/31/2008 9:32pm

    Obama is a protege of radical thinkers. His mentor is self-admitted communist Frank Marshall Davis, his inspiration is Malcolm X, black muslim radical whose religion believes Allah created only one race-the black race, the Jewish people have stolen the chosen people designation from them, and white people are “skunks of the earth” allowed by Allah to rule for 6,000 years before the muslim messanic leader rises to take power! Sound familiar? This is the message Louis Farrakhan preaches in the Nation of Islam right now. His pastor, Jeremiah Wright preaches black liberation theology which has its basis in marxism/socialism and characterizes blacks as the oppressed and whites as oppressors. They remain victims of a govt. controlled by “rich white people” that created AIDS as a “means of genocide” against blacks-Wright’s own words. Obama is close with Bill Ayers, radical terrorist Weatherman, and Bernadine Dorhn(Ayer’s terrorist wife) who both profess to believe in bringing down the capitalist/free market system in favor of socialism and redistribution of the wealth. Sound familiar? It’s no wonder Obama is supported by racists: Black Panthers and Nation of Islam, supported by communists: Castro, Hugo Chavez and Kim Jong Il of N. Korea, supported by terrorists: Rashid Khalidi,former PLO terrorist spokesman, Ahmed Yousef of HAMA terrorist org. and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Bill Ayers and B. Dorhn, supported by crooks: Tony Rezko convicted felon who received 14 million tax dollars from Obama for a corrupt housing venture, and Barney Frank House Finance Services leader who had gay affair with member of Fanny Mae while it was collapsing and Frank was denying the crisis, and Chris Dodd Senate Dem Banking Leader who denied any crisis at Fanny Mae and Freddy Mack while he was getting special mortgage deal from Countrywide while it was going bankrupt. There’s an old saying: BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER! A MAN IS KNOWN BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS!

  • Comm_reply
    Anonymous 11/03/2008 10:37am

    Okay so he goes to a church you dont like and believes in something you do not… Now tell me, which do you complain about more? Gas prices or what your neighbor believes in? The man can believe what he wants, I’m more interested in the fact that he wants to ease the health care issues, change the economy, and find alternate means of energy. I’m more worried about the impact his presidency is going to have on my children, not what he prays about at night! Everyone was all “Well George Bush goes to church!” back during his elections, and what good did that ever do us while he was in office? He prays to God, yet has no problem sending my brother off to war to kill, he prays to God, but since all his friends have jobs, there’s no reason to change the economy. He prays to God, and yet WE AMERICANS were paying over $4.00 a gallon for gas! Sounds to me like maybe his God was giving him some pretty crappy ideas! But hey, why not vote in McCain who believes in the same things as G.W.B. We can just bitch for another 8 years right?

  • Comm_reply
    Anonymous 11/12/2008 2:01pm

    You’re right. Let’s stop all domestic drilling. That will bring the price down

  • jasljohns 11/01/2008 4:59am

    Albeit Sen. Obama appears to have voted his conscience more often than Sen. McCain, I’m dismayed by his vote on S. Amdt. 510. Voting to raise taxes on a politically powerless minority is unconscionable.

  • Anonymous 11/01/2008 4:34pm

    we need a plan ?

    MLK Obama

  • Anonymous 11/01/2008 4:35pm

    We’re not idiots!
    Obama has inspired millions to believe in campaign promises again, keep at it brilliant acting performance.

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