John McCain: A Republican Tech Record

A self-styled maverick, the presidential hopeful is a GOP mainstreamer on tech policy.

Campaign promises are one thing, a proven track record is another matter entirely. Unlike any other candidate in the race for the White House—Republican or Democrat—John McCains long U.S. Senate career leaves little doubt about the technology direction of a McCain presidency.

With 20 years of service in the Senate, the 70-year-old Arizona Republican has spent much of that time as a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, where the majority of technology bills originate. Over the course of his congressional career, McCain has cast votes on tech-related bills since the early days of dial-up Internet connections.

With votes on tech bills and issues going to back to 1986, McCain has staked out clear positions on network neutrality, H-1B visas, free trade and Internet taxes. While he has long cultivated an image as a maverick, when it comes to technology issues, he rarely strays from the GOP tech policy position books.

"Im all for the government encouraging competition, but Ive found over time that less government involvement is better," McCain told the All Things Digital Conference in May, explaining his longtime opposition to network neutrality. "Unless there is a clear-cut, unequivocal restraint of competition, the government should stay out of it. These things will sort themselves out."

On the only Senate vote to date on network neutrality, McCain cast his against an amendment to a comprehensive telecom reform bill in 2006 that would have required broadband carriers such as AT&T and Comcast to treat all network traffic in a nondiscriminatory manner.

"When you control the pipe you should be able to get profit from your investment," McCain told the All Things Digital conference.

Instead of network neutrality laws, McCain contends Congress should shape a new regulatory model for the Federal Communications Commission, focusing on "policing anti-competitive behavior and consumer predators."

"The great thing about the Internet is that it has enjoyed, to a large degree, immunity from federal interference and federal regulation," McCain recently told Michael Arrington in a TechCrunch podcast. "So, I have a tendency to say, look, lets see how this thing all turns out, rather than anticipate a problem that so far has not arisen in any significant way."

On a cheerier note for Silicon Valley, McCain is a diehard supporter of expanding H-1B visas to allow technology companies to hire foreign-born graduates with advanced degrees in math, science, computers and engineering. Unfortunately, he told Arrington, the Valley shouldnt anticipate any increase in H-1B visas any time soon.

McCain voted for the unsuccessful Senate immigration reform bill earlier this year. The firestorm of controversy over border security and amnesty for illegal aliens overshadowed the fact that the legislation called for an increase in H-1B visas.

"I will continue to support H-1B visas, but, Im telling you, the American peoples priority is, either rightly or wrongly, and we live in a democracy, is that we secure the borders first," McCain said.


Click here to read more about senators calling for H1-B alternatives.

McCain also draws tech support for his fervent free trade position, albeit without environmental concerns and worker protection rights. McCain voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and U.S. membership in the World Trade Organization.

"It sounds like a lot of fun to bash China and others, but free trade has been the engine of our economy," McCain said during an Oct. 9 Republican presidential candidates debate in Dearborn, Mich. "Free trade should be the continuing principle that guides this nations economy."

McCain also pleased the technology sector with his support to make the temporary ban on Internet connection taxes permanent. He was the lead sponsor of the Internet Tax Freedom Act of 2007, which would have permanently banned all taxes on Internet services. Congress ultimately voted in October to extend the ban by seven years.

"We have seen that when state and local authorities tax new technology services, taxes can be as much as 20 percent of a customers bill," McCain said after the vote. "We want to ensure that the Internet is not taxed as heavily as cell phones, or alcohol and cigarettes for that matter."


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