A week after his brain cancer diagnosis, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., returned to Washington to cast a crucial vote to begin debate on the GOP health care legislation. But he also vowed to vote against the bill in its current version.
“I voted for the motion to proceed. … I will not vote for this bill as it is today,” McCain said emphatically. “It’s a shell of a bill right now. We all know that.”
Tuesday’s dramatic procedural vote on the controversial health care bill narrowly passed when Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote, opening the floor to debate on controversial legislation that would dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Only two Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, defected from party lines and voted against the motion to proceed. No Democrats voted in favor of the motion.
McCain, who came back to Washington after a week recovering from a surgery to remove an aggressive brain tumor, returned to the Senate floor to a standing ovation.
After Pence cast the decisive vote, the Arizona Republican took the floor, asking his colleagues to return to the old ways of the Senate. He echoed his July 17 call to “return to regular order” and hold hearings on the health care bill.
McCain urged his colleagues to find bipartisan solutions to future legislation, lamenting the lack of legislative progress in the Senate.
“We’re getting nothing done,” McCain said. “All we’ve really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.”
“What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions?” he asked.
McCain called on senators to stop listening to pundits, urging them instead to work for the public good.
“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio, and television and the Internet. To hell with them!” he said to applause.
The 80-year-old senator also emphasized that senators “are not the president’s subordinates,” but instead provide an essential check on the executive branch. “We are [the president’s] equal,” he said.
McCain said that he planned to spend a few days in Washington before going home for “a while” to treat his brain cancer, but promised an eventual return to the Senate. He said that he plans to manage the floor debate on the defense authorization bill during his short time in Washington.
“I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you cause to regret all the nice things you said about me,” McCain joked, referencing the well wishes he received when news of his cancer diagnosis broke.
“It is an honor to serve the American people in your company,” McCain concluded to a standing ovation from his colleagues. “Thank you, fellow senators.”
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