McCain re­turns to Se­nate to cheers, whoops

Pleads for Democrats, Repub­li­cans to be­gin work­ing to­gether

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - ERICA WERNER

WASH­ING­TON — In high drama at the Capi­tol, Sen. John McCain on Tues­day de­liv­ered a cru­cial vote in the Repub­li­can drive to dis­man­tle the health care law, a win for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and GOP lead­ers, and then lev­elled a broad­side at how the GOP got there.

As the 80-year-old McCain en­tered the cham­ber, Repub­li­cans and Democrats ap­plauded and whooped, with a few hugs for the six-term Ari­zona law­maker who is battling brain can­cer. “Aye,” he said for the GOP vote to move ahead on de­bate.

Af­ter he voted, McCain stood at his seat and ac­cepted hugs and hand­shakes from all sen­a­tors in both par­ties, draw­ing laugh­ter from the gallery when he and Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders ex­changed an awk­ward hug.

McCain then spoke on the Se­nate floor, his face pale, cheek bruised and a vis­i­ble red scar and stitches above his left eye where doc­tors had re­moved a blood clot. His voice strong, he of­fered a bit of self-dep­re­ca­tion be­fore launch­ing into an im­pas­sioned speech, say­ing he was “look­ing a lit­tle worse for wear.”

He be­moaned the lack of leg­isla­tive ac­tion in Congress, the GOP’s se­cre­tive process in work­ing on re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing Oba­macare and a plea for Democrats and Repub­li­cans to work to­gether.

“Stop lis­ten­ing to the bom­bas­tic loud­mouths on the ra­dio, tele­vi­sion and in­ter­net. To hell with them. They don’t want any­thing done for the public good. Our in­ca­pac­ity is their liveli­hood,” McCain said. “Let’s trust each other. Let’s re­turn to reg­u­lar or­der. We’ve been spin­ning our wheels on too many im­por­tant is­sues be­cause we keep try­ing to find a way to win with­out help from across the aisle.”

He re­minded his col­leagues: “Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the pres­i­dent’s sub­or­di­nates. We are his equal!”

McCain also said he would not vote for the cur­rent GOP ver­sion of the re­peal-and-re­place bill.

McCain drew a stand­ing ova­tion af­ter his re­marks. He had cast his vote to take up the health care bill, de­liv­er­ing for his party and Trump on the is­sue that’s de­fined the GOP for the past seven years.

“He’s tough as a boot,” said Repub­li­can Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana. “Many peo­ple un­der­stand­ably would be curled up in bed in the fe­tal po­si­tion.”

McCain him­self cam­paigned heav­ily on the “Oba­macare” re­peal is­sue last year as he won re-elec­tion to a sixth and al­most cer­tainly fi­nal Se­nate term. And there could be sweet re­venge in de­fy­ing can­cer to undo the sig­na­ture leg­is­la­tion of the man who beat him for the pres­i­dency in 2008, Barack Obama.

The Ari­zona sen­a­tor has emerged as one of the pres­i­dent’s most out­spo­ken GOP crit­ics on Capi­tol Hill. Dur­ing last year’s cam­paign Trump shock­ingly ridiculed McCain over his years as a POW dur­ing the Viet­nam War.

McCain’s re­turn was eerily rem­i­nis­cent of a sim­i­lar sce­nario in­volv­ing McCain’s good friend, the late Demo­cratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Mas­sachusetts, who re­turned to the Se­nate in July 2008 while battling brain can­cer to vote on Medi­care leg­is­la­tion, his dra­matic en­try in the cham­ber elic­it­ing cheers and ap­plause. Ted Kennedy died of can­cer in Au­gust 2009 . The pos­si­bil­ity of McCain re­turn­ing had been dis­cussed around the Capi­tol on Mon­day, yet the an­nounce­ment from his of­fice late in the day came as a sur­prise.

MARK WIL­SON, GETTY IM­AGES

Repub­li­can Sen. John McCain gives a thumbs up to well wish­ers in Wash­ing­ton Tues­day.

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