John McCain

McCain Returns to Senate, Votes: 'We Are Getting Nothing Done, My Friends'

Senator John McCain has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, doctors said Wednesday evening.
Senator John McCain has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, doctors said Wednesday evening. Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

As promised, John McCain returned to the Senate Tuesday, and he did so in a dramatic fashion.

Despite his brain cancer diagnosis and recent brain surgery, the Arizona Republican senator arrived to cast his vote to proceed with debate on the GOP health care bill.

After a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle, he voted in favor of continuing debate on the GOP bill. A processional line formed as each senator individually greeted McCain, regardless of political party.

McCain and his fellow Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin helped push the vote to the 50-vote benchmark needed for the Republicans to move forward. This pushed the tie-breaking vote back over to Vice President Mike Pence, who voted in favor.

McCain began the debates on the bill and stressed the importance of bipartisanship work on the health care bill, saying he would not vote for the bill as it stands now.

"We are getting nothing done, my friends," he told the Senate.

He urged his fellow senators to ignore the urge to block each other out of competition rather than work for the greater good of the American people.

He also threw a few jabs at Affordable Care Act, the media, and the president.

"Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and the television and the internet," he said. "To hell with them."

In regards to Trump, McCain reminded his colleagues that the legislative branch was in place to offer checks and balances to the executive.

"We are not the president's subordinates," he said. "We are his equals."

President Donald Trump aggressively urged Republicans to get the job done last week at a luncheon with 49 senators, saying, "Any senator who votes against debate says you are fine with Obamacare."

This didn't scare Republican senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, who voted no.

McCain's 15-minute debate was not counted toward the overall debate time of the bill, Senator and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in his opening remarks.

At the beginning of the hearing, McConnell urged his fellow senators to not "let this moment slip by" to make good on the seven year promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

"With a surprise election comes great opportunities to do things we thought weren't possible," McConnell said. "All we have to do today is have the courage to be open to the debate."

As the vote was opened to the floor, protesters immediately took center stage and began shouting. The chants "Kill the bill, don't kill us" and "Shame!" rang through the Senate floor as senators continued to sit emotionless until the noise settled down.

The Republican health care bill was drafted, for the most part, in private, which left Democrat and Republican senators alike voting to proceed on a mystery bill.

McCain announced on Monday that he would fly back to Washington, D.C., specifically for the vote despite his recent diagnosis.

McCain's glioblastoma diagnosis, an aggressive form of brain cancer that yields just a 5 percent survival rate of five years, shocked the nation.

Politicians across the aisle came to his support on social media, calling him a fighter, a warrior, and an American hero.

While most put political differences aside, some held their ground on health care and pointed out the irony of this diagnosis happening in the middle of the voting process on the GOP health care bill.

Some Reddit users spouted conspiracy theories, while other Twitter and Facebook users accused McCain of turning his back on Arizona cancer patients in years past. America has been keeping close tabs on the 80-year-old senator, from his hospital visits to his hikes with his daughter, Meghan.

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Lindsay Moore