For Sen. John McCain, A Momentous Few Days

Jul 28, 2017
Originally published on July 31, 2017 4:24 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It has been a momentous few days for Arizona Senator John McCain.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We have some sad news to report tonight, no matter where you are on the political spectrum. Senator John McCain of Arizona has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

SIEGEL: It was just last week that McCain's office announced he'd been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It's very aggressive. It's very malignant. And again, it has a very low survival rate.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Senator McCain stayed in Arizona for his initial treatment. Senators offered support.

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LINDSEY GRAHAM: God knows how this ends, not me. But I do know this. This disease has never had a more worthy opponent.

SIEGEL: Then, on Tuesday, McCain made a dramatic return to Washington to deliver the decisive vote to allow debate on the health care bill.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Mr. McCain, aye...

MCEVERS: Then he gave a rousing speech on the Senate floor, pleading with his fellow senators to go back to the days of bipartisanship.

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JOHN MCCAIN: Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order. We've been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. We're getting nothing done, my friends. We're getting nothing done.

MCEVERS: But as debate continued throughout the week, McCain seemed to be sticking to the party line...

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Mr. McCain - Mr. McCain, aye...

MCEVERS: ...Which prompted criticism from some who wondered if it was hypocritical for him to return from high-quality cancer treatment to vote to repeal Obamacare.

SIEGEL: Perhaps he was waiting for a more dramatic moment to take a stand, a moment that came at 1:30 this morning.

After hushed huddles with other senators - Republicans and Democrats - and a conversation with Vice President Mike Pence, McCain walked down to the floor, extended his arm and gave a thumbs down.

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MCCAIN: No.

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MCEVERS: His no vote joined those of Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the two Republicans who consistently voted no all week, along with the entire Democratic Caucus.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: The ayes are 49. The nays are 51. The amendment's not agreed to.

MCEVERS: Today, McCain's office announced the senator is returning to Arizona to begin radiation and chemotherapy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.