WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate John McCain drew a sharp rebuke Monday from conservatives after he signaled an openness to higher payroll taxes for Social Security, contrary to previous vows not to raise taxes of any kind.
Speaking with reporters on his campaign bus July 9, he had cited a need to shore up Social Security, saying, "I cannot tell you what I would do, except to put everything on the table."
He went a step further Sunday with his response on a nationally televised talk show to a question about payroll tax increases.
"There is nothing that's off the table. I have my positions, and I'll articulate them. But nothing's off the table," McCain said. "I don't want tax increases. But that doesn't mean that anything is off the table."
That comment drew a strong response Monday from the Club for Growth, a Washington anti-tax group.
In a letter to the Arizona senator, the group called his comments "shocking because you have been adamant in your opposition to raising taxes under any circumstances."
At a July 7 town hall meeting in Denver, McCain said voters faced a stark choice between him and his Democratic rival, Barack Obama.
"Sen. Obama will raise your taxes," McCain said. "I won't."
In a March 16 interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, McCain said he would cut taxes where possible and would not raise them.
"Do you mean none?" Hannity asked.
"None," McCain replied.