Upon returning to Congress from Arizona in July after his diagnosis of brain cancer John McCain (R-AZ) took to the Senate floor to make a speech that was hailed by Democrats and fair minded Republicans. His words were hailed for their decency and respect for Congress when he called on his fellow senators who were debating legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act to “Return to Regular Order.” It was a speech of principle on how the Senate should be conducting its business instead of moving forward on the bill which the Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, was bringing to the floor that had been written in secret by one Party. He called for any bill to go through the appropriate committee structure allowing for both sides to have their say and participate in its structuring.
While he said the bill as written wasn’t good for his state his speech was about more than that. When the bill was finally brought to the floor three Republicans were needed to kill it and John McCain provided the third crucial vote along with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). McCain was hailed as a hero by all who opposed the bill including nearly every healthcare organization in the country and every Democrat who voted no with him. He was vilified by the President for his vote but it seemed he took pride in sticking with the principle he enunciated in his floor speech.
John McCain has been diagnosed with the type of brain cancer that is most likely a death sentence. So his legacy in Congress is clearly on his mind. He is a military hero despite what President Trump has said, having survived years as a prisoner of war. He came home and continued to serve his country having first won his senate seat in 1987.
He has been somewhat of an enigma over the years and as a Democrat I have occasionally agreed with his votes but more often disagreed with them. One is never sure with McCain where he will end up. Recently he stood up for principle and pushed for the nomination of Eric Fanning as Secretary of the Army and now supports a bill to allow transgender persons to serve in the military. But at other times he can side with the right-wing on any issue.
Now he has a huge decision to make. His vote on the Graham (R-SC)/Cassidy (R-LA) bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could be the last important vote he will ever take in the Congress. If that is the case it will be probably be the lead in any story about his Congressional legacy.
If the speech he gave last July was an honest one, and he believes in the principles he espoused on how the Senate should work by not ramming legislation through on a pure Party vote; legislation that hasn’t been through committee, hasn’t been debated or fully vetted by anyone, not even the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this vote will be an easy one for him.
The vote on this bill gives McCain the chance to show whether that speech was all BS or whether he really believes what he said. We know McCain is best friends with Senator Graham. Will friendship and Party loyalty override principle? Can his vote be bought with some extra money for Arizona? Will those things be enough to turn him into the biggest hypocrite on the Hill? We will find out next week.
In the meantime I urge the Senator to think about one issue that should have an impact on him now more than ever. He has had cancer before and now has it again. This bill allows states to opt out of the requirement to mandate insurance companies sell policies in their state to people with pre-existing conditions without increasing premiums. Senator McCain, you are a rich man and may be able to cover your health care without insurance or can afford to pay exorbitant premiums; but most Americans can’t. A vote for this bill could easily place health insurance beyond the means of many Americans, families who may have children who are ill and have pre-existing conditions. Do you want to be known as the person who voted for that? I want to assume your basic decency won’t allow you to have that on your conscience. Senator McCain, please do the right thing. Let your legacy be that of a lion of the Senate, a man of principle. Vote NO on Graham/Cassidy.