McCain’s floor speech
As the health care debate in Washington intensified late last month, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) offered the sort of stirring political plea that seems lifted out of “The West Wing” or “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
McCain returned to Washington on July 25 — following surgery to remove a blood clot above his eye and the revelation that he has brain cancer — to cast a decisive vote opening debate on a series of measures aiming to, in some way, shape or form, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. Later that week, he voted against the repeal and replace bill. He even voted against the “skinny repeal.”
Prior to his vote, McCain offered his thoughts on the inaction that he said has marked the U.S. Senate as of late.
He spoke about the “true statesmen, giants of American politics” he has known and admired. He said though they came from different backgrounds and held different ideologies, they recognized their “obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively.”
“That principled mindset, and the service of our predecessors who possessed it, come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today,” said the once and future maverick of the Republican Party, while accepting blame for his role, at times, in wanting “to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.”
Ultimately, the Republican-led effort to dismantle Obamacare failed, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying it is “time to move on.” President Donald Trump, who apparently did not listen to McCain’s speech, continued his bid to never take the high road. Rather, he reveled in the idea that his politics will hurt people and then they will turn to him for help. On July 28, he tweeted, “3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!”
McCain noted in his speech that the Senate has only one real accomplishment this year, confirming Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. He then pointed to a more dubious achievement for the GOP.
“Our health care insurance system is a mess. We all know it, those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. Something has to be done. We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven’t found it yet, and I’m not sure we will. All we’ve managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn’t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it,” McCain said.
We applaud McCain’s call for a “return to regular order” and ending the cycle of “trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.” He rightly upbraids both leading political parties for not seeking compromise, for the lack of “broad cooperation” that leads to “incremental progress” in actually addressing issues.
And quit taking cues from the pundits, he told his Senate colleagues.
“I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood,” McCain said.
McCain called for the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to hold hearings and report out a bill “with contributions from both sides.” That was sorely lacking from the failed GOP-led effort of back-room meetings with only select members.
Our nation is large and diverse. For our government to be successful, both sides of the aisle need to have meaningful participation. And the voices of rural residents must be given the weight of those in our urban centers. We applaud McCain for his efforts to remind his Senate colleagues of this.
We hope this can lead to real improvements in our health care system, not just the political one-upmanship pushed by Trump, McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).