McCain led the Commerce Committee from 1997 to 2001 and
again from 2005 to 2007.
While supporters say he led the panel with an open-mind, his critics say he avoided policy debates and seemed cozy with lobbyists, the Politico said Wednesday.
"He tended not to be a leader, strangely enough," said the Heritage Foundation's James Gattuso, who covers regulatory issues for the conservative think tank. "You had a lot of initiatives where it would be (former Sen.) George Allen or (Sen.) John Sununu or some other Republican taking (the lead) on a particular issue. Maybe he was picking his battles carefully, but he wasn't out front, which was strange."
Ivan Schlager, a former committee staff director who now is a lobbyist, said McCain is not a hard-line deregulator.
"He's a deregulator, but when he sees where government should intervene, or people have gotten greedy, he has a populist streak to him," Schlager said.