"If he should be president, it would be ironic that he comes from a party that talks a lot about family values," said Bob Kafka, national organizer for ADAPT, a group advocating for passage of the bill. Without the legislation, many disabled and elderly people don't have the choice to apply coverage to anything other than institutional care, he said.
"Families are devastated because they don't have a choice to keep people at home," Kafka said.
McCain was not in his office during the protest. He was campaigning Tuesday in Florida on his health care plan.
The bill, S. 799, stuck in committee since last year, would amend the Social Security Act to allow people who are eligible for Medicaid coverage of nursing home costs to spend it instead on home-based, or community care.
Sponsored by Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., it also would grant extra money to states that participate in the program, according to a summary of the bill.
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, are co-sponsors of the bill, but McCain is not.
Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said about 20 people from the group were arrested outside McCain's office in the Russell Senate Office Building on Tuesday and charged with unlawful assembly.
McCain's Senate chief of staff said the protesters turned down an offer to meet immediately with McCain's aides. Mark Busey said he didn't know McCain's position on the legislation but would ask. The chances are slim, however, that the senator himself would be meeting with members of the group.
"We are more than happy to let them know when he will be back in the Washington area at public events, town halls and the like," Busey said in a telephone interview. "Right now we do not know when he's going to be here for a meeting."