WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain returned to the Senate on Tuesday to cast one of the final and crucial votes on a procedural step to advance Republicans’ plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
McCain, who had been recovering from surgery in Arizona, flew to Washington and was greeted by a standing ovation on both sides of the aisle on the Senate floor when he arrived just minutes before 3 p.m. ET. He waved and gave the thumbs up to reporters before casting his vote.
McCain spoke from the Senate floor following the vote, pleading with his colleagues to put partisanship aside and repeated his call to return to regular order, an apparent dig at his own party that skipped the regular procedure of allowing the health care bill to be debated in committee as well as holding hearings.
“We’re getting nothing done my friends. We’re getting nothing done,” he said, adding, “All we’ve really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.”
McCain also remind his colleagues on the legislative branch that they are “an important check on the executive.”
“We are not the President’s subordinates,” McCain said. “We are his equals.”
McCain was essential to advance the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could only afford to lose two votes of his 52-member conference in order to pass the motion, and both Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkwoski of Alaska voted against the step.
McCain’s office announced Monday night that he would return — a surprise to most on Capitol Hill who expected him to miss the crucial vote and return to Washington at a later date.
McCain underwent surgery to remove a blood clot earlier this month at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. Lab results from that surgery confirmed the presence of brain cancer associated with the blood clot.