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John McCain gives first remarks since returning to the Senate

McCain returns to Senate
McCain returns to Senate 15:00

Sen. John McCain returned to the Senate and a standing ovation from his colleagues Tuesday, urging Republicans to return to "regular order," work with Democrats, be independent from the executive branch, and get something done. 

The Arizona Republican returned to cast a vote on health care reform after he rattled Washington, D.C., with the announcement of his brain cancer diagnosis last week. With McCain's yes vote, Vice President Mike Pence was able to vote to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate, approving the motion to proceed on the debate to repeal and replace Obamacare. McCain said he could not vote for the Senate health care replacement as it stands, though, and called for hearings on future health care legislation, but also had a broader message for his colleagues. 

Noting that the Senate was known as the world's "greatest deliberative body," McCain observed, "I'm not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today," given that the Senate is "more partisan" and "more tribal" than at any time he can remember. It "hasn't been overburdened by greatness lately," he observed.

Both sides, he said, "conspired in our decline."  But there is a way forward, he suggested.

"What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions?" McCain said on the Senate floor, according to his prepared remarks. "We're not getting much done apart. I don't think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn't the most inspiring work. There's greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don't require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people."

Fight like John McCain 02:14

McCain is seen as an institution in the Senate, where he has served for 30 years. The Republican also urged his colleagues to work as a "more deliberative, careful" body, as the "founders envisioned," independent of the executive branch. 

"We are an important check on the powers of the executive," McCain said. "Our consent is necessary for the president to appoint jurists and powerful government officials and in many respects to conduct foreign policy. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the president's subordinates. We are his equal." 

McCain thanked his colleagues and the public for their support, saying he will be in Washington for a "few days" before returning home to Arizona for a while to treat his illness. He said he hopes to be back soon. 

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