As Senator John McCain entered the Capitol on Tuesday to cast his vote in favour of the Republicans’ promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare”, there was high drama. The Senator was greeted by a standing ovation and his return resulted in a flood of good wishes coming his way from various parts of America. Even though Trump and McCain have not been on the best of terms, McCain’s return to the Capitol barely two weeks after his brain surgery, played a crucial role in the final tally. The votes finally stood at 51-50, in favour of the Republicans.
Eighty-year-old McCain has been diagnosed with a primary glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive tumor that forms in the tissue of the brain and spinal cord. He underwent surgery for the same on July 14 and was sporting a scar over his eyebrow as he addressed the Senate. “I hope we can rely again on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other, learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better to serve the people who elected us.” He made an appeal to the Senate to stop listening to “the bombastic loudmouths” on the radio and the Internet.
He addressed the division among the Republicans and the Democrats and how it is acting as an interference in the lawmaking process and the smooth functioning of the government. “Our deliberations today … are more partisan, more tribal … (than) at any time than I can remember. They haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately,” he said. He referred to the “top-down approach” of working being employed by both sides and cited it as a factor for “getting nothing done”. He blamed both sides for trying to remake the health bill solely on a partisan basis, without an open debate on the matter.
Even though he voted in favour of repealing the Obamacare, he called the country’s healthcare insurance system “a mess”. “Something has to be done. We Republicans have looked for a way to end it (Obamacare) and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven’t found it yet and I’m not sure we will. All we’ve managed to do is make popular a policy that wasn’t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.”
As the Senate devoted a keen ear to his words, McCain cleared that he would not vote for a Senate health care bill without major changes. He termed it as “a shell of a bill”.
President Donald Trump celebrated the vote at a rally in Ohio. “I’m very happy to announce that, with zero of the Democrats’ votes, the motion to proceed on health care has just passed. And now we move forward toward truly great health care for the American people,” Trump said.
He also recognised McCain’s contribution. “This was a big step. I want to thank Senator John McCain — very brave man.”
McCain’s congressional career began in 1982, with the win of a House seat.