In a presidential debate on Wednesday, McCain said he voted against the Bush tax cuts because he wanted to rein in spending.
"I disagreed when we had tax cuts without spending restraint," the Arizona senator said.
The explanation fits with his history of railing against wasteful federal spending. But it does not fit with McCain's comments when he opposed the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.
In 2001, McCain said the tax cuts favored the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. In 2003, he said there should be no tax cuts until the Iraq war costs were known.
His aversion to the Bush tax cuts is just another reason McCain gives heartburn to many in the conservative GOP base. Besides taxes, there is also his more forgiving attitude toward illegal immigration, his effort to limit money in politics and his long-running feuds with leaders of the Christian right.
The debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., came on the heels of Tuesday's Florida primary, when McCain defeated former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, gaining an advantage going into next week's Super Tuesday primary.