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McCain: Bush right to veto kids health insurance expansion

  • Story Highlights
  • Sen. John McCain says he supports veto of children's health insurance bill
  • Americans have "rebelled against out-of-control spending," McCain says
  • GOP candidate says founders "informed by Judeo-Christian values"
  • Arizona Republican says he believes a Muslim could be president
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CAMDEN, South Carolina (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told CNN Wednesday he agrees with President Bush's veto of legislation expanding a children's health insurance program, saying the bill provided a "phony smoke and mirrors way of paying for it."

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Sen. John McCain says the president was right to veto the expansion of a children's health insurance program.

"Right call by the president," the Republican White House hopeful told CNN's John King. "We've laid a debt on these same children ... that we're saying we're going to give health insurance to."

The bill, which would cost $35 billion over five years, is meant to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program to provide coverage to an additional 10 million children.

Bush said he vetoed the bill because he considered it a step towards "federalizing" medicine and an inappropriately expanding the program's goal beyond its original focus on helping poor children.

During an interview onboard the CNN Election Express in South Carolina, McCain said he agreed with the president's decision. Video Watch Sen. McCain's interview with CNN's John King »

"The American people have rebelled against out-of-control spending. If they can find a legitimate way to pay for it, I would consider it," he said.

Expanding the program to cover children in families up to 400 percent of the poverty line would an "unfunded liability," the Arizona Republican said. "Just like the Medicare prescription drug program."

In the wide ranging interview, McCain also answered questions about the health of his campaign, saying he currently feels like he is in a good position.

"I am feeling good, not only because of my gut instinct, but because people don't really focus on the nominees until after Labor Day and I understand that," he said. "Our turnouts at the town halls are excellent; particularly in New Hampshire and here in South Carolina. I can sense that enthusiasm."

But McCain also acknowledged he would have to win some important states early in the primary process to have a chance at his party's nomination.

"I think history shows since 1980, the nominee of our party has to win two of the first three: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina."

McCain also continued to clarify his recent controversial interview with a religious Web site in which he called America a "Christian nation" and said he would prefer a Christian president.

In the interview Wednesday, McCain broadened his language a bit, emphasizing the Judeo-Christian roots of the nation.

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"My views are ... this nation was founded by our founders who were informed by Judeo-Christian values," he told CNN. "I believe that, and I think it's evident by reading Federalist papers, the Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution. That's what I believe. And I believe that those Judeo-Christian values inform our lives today - and certainly mine."

"And yes, I believe a Muslim could be president," he continued. "I believe anybody can be president in America." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Alexander Mooney contributed to this report.

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