By Ed O’Keefe and David Weigel — Washington Post
Sen. John McCain,R-Ariz., who announced last week that he is battling brain cancer, plans to return to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
“Senator McCain looks forward to returning to the United States Senate tomorrow to continue working on important legislation, including health care reform, the National Defense Authorization Act, and new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea,” a statement from his office read late Monday.
The message said nothing about how McCain plans to vote on a key procedural vote scheduled for Tuesday that will either prolong or immediately stop in its tracks the months-long GOP push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Before announcing his diagnosis of a tumor called a glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer, McCain had signaled he had serious doubts about the Republican health-care plan. When Republican leaders scrapped a planned vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act, McCain said in a statement that Congress needed to “return to regular order, hold hearings, receive input from members of both parties, and heed the recommendations of our nation’s governors so that we can produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to quality and affordable health care.”
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Revered on both sides of the aisle, McCain’s health news cast a pall over the U.S. Capitol last week, and his return is sure to provide a morale boost for colleagues in both parties.
But most immediately, McCain may provide a critical vote in support of beginning formal debate on the GOP health-care bill. Republican leaders openly discussed the possibility of McCain’s return with reporters on Monday during an evening vote.
“I’m pretty confident we’ll get on the bill even without John, ” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the chamber’s lead GOP vote-counter, told reporters.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she spoke with McCain on Saturday and that her frequent collaborator was eager to get back to work.
“It is just extraordinary how upbeat he is and how accepting of his diagnosis – it was truly inspirational to talk with him,” she said. “I have a feeling that if there’s any way he can be back, he will be here – whether or not his doctors like it. It just reminds me of what an extraordinarily brave person he is.”
Regardless of what happens with the health-care bill, the Senate is scheduled next to launch debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, annual legislation that determines the scope and cost of U.S. military operations around the world. As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain is poised to lead floor debate on the bill, a task that historically can stretch over several long days.