WASHINGTON (CNN) – John McCain left the campaign trail Thursday to return to the Senate to vote for a bill that would place a one-year moratorium on earmarks, money that is tacked onto bills by legislators for pet projects.
“I believe we must end this process, which has diverted billions in taxpayer dollars to needless projects, once and for all. If voters give me the pen, I will veto every single pork-barrel bill Congress sends me,” McCain said in a statement.
The Arizona senator blasts excess spending every step of the way on the campaign trail and though Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will join him in voting for the measure, McCain criticized their past use of earmarks.
“They have used earmarks and some of them in a manner I don’t that think taxpayers would at all approve of,” McCain told CNN. “It’s hundreds of millions of dollars, taxpayers’ dollars, that are absolutely outrageously wasted.”
McCain urged Obama and Clinton to be more transparent and reveal the earmarks they’ve asked for, saying it’s likely much of that money hasn’t been spent yet and can be recuperated.
“I call on them to say ‘hey, don’t spend that money,’ because they’re earmarks, they didn’t go through a proper process and taxpayers can’t afford it.”
All three senators running for president are back in their day jobs on Capitol Hill Thursday for the first time in about a month.
(CNN)– Kevin Madden, a former spokesman for Mitt Romney, said Thursday the lengthy Democratic nominating process is only helping John McCain and the Republican Party move ahead.
"I think every day this goes unresolved it adds more chaos to the situation and more chaos is good for Republicans in the general elections," Madden told CNN's John Roberts.
Democrats have been in dispute over whether to seat Florida and Michigan's delegates at the party's convention in August. Both candidates must agree to the terms set forth by the Democratic National Committee, but it remains unclear how soon a compromise will be struck.
Despite the Democrats' continued wrangling, the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll shows McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, in a statistical tie with both prospective Democratic opponents, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Obama leads McCain 47 percent to 44 percent. In a match up between Clinton and McCain, the poll found the New York Democrat ahead of McCain by 2 points, 47 percent to 45 percent.
Still, Madden emphasized, the on going "parade" between the Democrats gives McCain the edge with "more time to consolidate conservatives, [and more time to] raise more money."
Since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, McCain has refocused efforts to more fundraising and foreign travel.
Both Democratic candidates out raised the Arizona senator in the month of February. McCain has said he is planning 20 to 30 fundraisers a month to catch up to the Democratic candidates. The Los Angeles Times reported tickets for his most recent fundraiser last Monday in Missouri cost $1,000 for a reception, or $2,300 for the reception and a photo with McCain.
–CNN's Emily Sherman
(CNN) - Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean wouldn't say Thursday if he supported the Florida Democratic Party's proposal of a combination mail-in vote and in-person election, saying only that the best option is whatever he can get Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to agree to.
"The best option is whatever we can get the candidates to agree with, which puts a vote back in the hands of the people of Florida and Michigan," Dean said on CNN's American Morning Thursday. "That's going to be not so easy to do. Once you're three quarters of the way down the track as we are in this race, to go back and change something, that makes - that's a big deal."
Dean's comments came shortly after the Florida Democratic Party released its plan in a memo sent to party leader's Wednesday night. The estimated cost of the proposal would be between $10 million and $12 million.
Earlier this week the Obama campaign expressed strong reservations with any mail-in vote, noting Florida has no history conducting such an election. Speaking to CNN Thursday, Dean said he is seeking a proposal that both candidates consider fair.
"When you change the rules in the middle of the game, which is what's proposed here, you've got to do it in a way that both campaigns agree is fair," he said.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - After the state was stripped of its delegates for changing the date of its primary, Florida's Democratic Party has proposed a combination mail-in vote and in-person election on June 3.
"The plan would be inclusive of all Democratic voters," according to a memo of the draft plan obtained by CNN that was sent to party leaders, including candidates Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean. (Read full memo [PDF])
The estimated cost of the proposal would be between $10 million and $12 million, according to the memo which was sent to party leaders Wednesday night.
Florida voted on January 29 and Clinton won with 50 percent of the vote, compared with 33 percent for Obama.
Neither candidate campaigned there, though Clinton held a few permitted fund-raisers.
The Florida Democratic Party knew ahead of the primary that its delegates would not be counted because it violated party rules by scheduling the vote too early.
With Clinton and Obama locked in such a tight battle for delegates, Florida could play a key role in determining the Democratic nominee.
Florida Democrats in Congress came up empty-handed Tuesday as they searched for a way to let the state's voters help choose a Democratic presidential nominee.
Both a mail-in vote and a primary do-over were proposed, but political leaders have been unable to reach a consensus.
Romney made clear Tuesday night he's interested in being McCain's running mate. (Getty Images)
The Arizona senator joked Wednesday he got the impression Romney is interested in the No. 2 spot on the Republican presidential ticket after watching a recent interview with the former Massachusetts governor.
"I got that impression from him watching his interview last night, I got that impression," McCain said laughing on his campaign plane in New Hampshire. (Watch McCain's comments on Romney)
The comments follow Romney's interview with Fox News Tuesday night, during which the former presidential candidate said he'd be honored to serve alongside McCain.
“I think any Republican leader in this country would be honored to be asked to serve as the vice presidential nominee, myself included," Romney said. "Of course this is a nation which needs strong leadership. And if the nominee of our party asked you to serve with him, anybody would be honored to receive that call … and to accept it, of course.”
McCain refused to hint at just how seriously his campaign is considering Romney for the ticket, though reports earlier this week said some aides to President Bush are pushing the idea of a McCain-Romney ticket, given the Massachusetts Republican's credentials with respect to economic issues.
But McCain and Romney were bitter opponents earlier this year in the Republican presidential race, and the two men have butted heads for several years. Romney also categorically ruled out being McCain's running mate in January, saying "I’m not going to be any vice president to John McCain either, that’s not going to happen.”
McCain acknowledged he and Romney were in a tough fight for the party's nomination, but suggested the two have put their differences behind them.
"The lesson in politics is that you go forward, not back and so I defend the fact that it was a spirited and tough campaign but the fact is that once it’s over, we share…the same principles and values of conservative Republicans," he said on his campaign bus later Wednesday.
McCain also said it's not necessary for a presidential candidate to be personally close to his or her running mate.
"I don’t think you have a personal relationship, but you have to have a comfortable, professional relationship."
- CNN's Alex Mooney and Alexander Marquardt
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Compiled by Jonathan Helman
CNN Washington Bureau
NY Times: Racial Issue Bubbles Up Again for Democrats
After the Democratic primary in South Carolina turned racially divisive in January, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama essentially declared a truce and put a stop to fighting between their camps. But this week, race has once again begun casting a pall over the battle between the two.
Washington Post: Florida's Mail-In Primary Plan Opens Rifts in Washington and Tallahassee
The Florida Democratic Party is pushing forward with a plan for recontesting its primary, largely with mail-in ballots, despite vigorous opposition from Democrats in the state's congressional delegation as well as concerns from the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.).
Detroit Free Press: Democrats Propose Do-Over Primary Paid For By Donors
As negotiators continued to work Wednesday on developing an acceptable plan for a possible do-over Democratic presidential primary in Michigan, the prospect of a state-run — but party-funded — primary was raised as a potential alternative to an election conducted through the mail.
WSJ: McCain, GOP May Have Cause for Hope
Rarely have the stars aligned so squarely against the party in power in elections for the White House as it has for Republicans, the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll bears out. Ultimately, voters choose a person for president, not a party, and Sen. John McCain seems to give Republicans a fighting chance.
(CNN)— The political world saw two resignations Wednesday. Eliot Spitzer announced he will resign as governor of New York effective Monday and former Democratic Party vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro announced her resignation from the finance committee of Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
In the latest episode of CNN=Politics Daily, Mary Snow reports on Spitzer's resignation and CNN Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena explains the criminal penalties Spitzer may face if prosecuted in connection with his involvement with a high-priced prostitution ring.
Suzanne Malveaux reports from the campaign trail about Geraldine Ferraro's decision to sever her formal ties with the Clinton campaign after Ferraro's recent remarks about Sen. Barack Obama caused controversy within the Democratic Party.
Finally, Clinton, Obama and Sen. John McCain may disagree about many things but Kate Bouldan reports on one thing the three presidential contenders agree on - the need to curb Congressional earmarks in the federal budget.
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–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart