He turned out to be the executioner.
McCain even criticized a repeal and replace effort during his absence in Arizona, calling on the GOP to open talks with Democrats on how to fix a growing health care crisis. Any version of the pending legislation that the Senate will now debate will make the average person in McCain's situation unable to afford premiums calculated to take account of conditions which many have at birth or, like McCain's glioblastoma, acquire through no fault of their own. "McCain is a fighter", said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky during a Senate floor speech Tuesday.
Friday afternoon, McCain's office announced he was returning to Arizona to begin radiation and chemotherapy treatments for his brain tumor.
Many have been concerned about the senator's health in recent months, though rumors about his health have been around for years.
"We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a bad political price", he said.
While Brooks charged McConnell's with last night's failure, others lay the blame with the White House. Susan Collins of ME and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska whose opposition had been expected.
McCain's speech was powerful, as well, because he accepted his share of the blame, as all of us should, for creating a more divided America. "He gets angry, for sure, but when push comes to shove and there are brass tacks, that internal gyroscope of right and wrong guides him". But quickly after McCain arrived, he and Johnson both voted in favor, and Pence ultimately cast the tiebreaker.
The health industry has watched the debate nervously, and after the vote some groups urged the Senate to reconsider its approach.
After successive failed votes on other plans, Republicans are coming to believe that what's being called a "skinny repeal" may be the only thing that can pass and keep the process moving. His face looked exasperated. But then, like an angry prophet, Sen. Chris Murphy of CT described it later in a post on the website Medium, "Time seems to stand still".
Before the Scouts, Trump wasn't quite done yet: "He better get Senator Capito to vote for it". His protagonist throughout that fight was McConnell, who argued that Republicans needed those six- and seven-figure checks to defeat Democrats and their labor union allies. I admire your words, Senator McCain, but I can't trust you to be anything other than a creator of noble words.
McConnell's remarks in the immediate aftermath were a bitter rebuke.
They want it to proceed to a conference committee, where House and Senate members would work on crafting another bill that uses each chamber's bill as a starting point to compromise on final legislation - instead of having what the Senate passes sent directly to the House floor for a vote.
"Together, we're united in saying that this bill will hurt so many, so many millions of people in so many ways, that we will not let it pass, we will not stand for the ruse that they went through today to try and move the bill along", he said.
The vote was also marked by the dramatic appearance of John McCain, who returned to the Senate for the first time since being diagnosed with brain cancer. "We're getting nothing done", he said, arguing that both sides were to blame for polarizing the process of making laws and funding the government. Let's return to regular order.
McCain's biggest legislative success, aside from national security matters, came in 2002 on a campaign finance law that restricted big donations that national political parties could collect. Legislatively, they have been plagued by starts and stops during the Trump presidency, unable to get their differing ideological factions on the same page.
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