McCain leaves Washington for Christmas break before contentious vote on tax bill

Sen. John McCain on July 11, 2017, at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/TNS)
Sen. John McCain on July 11, 2017, at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain left the nation’s capital Sunday to spend Christmas in Arizona with his family as he battles brain cancer, giving his Republican Party one less vote as it is expected this week to attempt to push through a contentious tax bill along party lines.

President Donald Trump told reporters Sunday that McCain, R-Ariz., and his wife, Cindy McCain, have “headed back [to Arizona], but I understand he’ll come if we ever needed his help, which hopefully we won’t.” He added: “But the word is John will come back if we need his vote. It’s too bad. He’s going through very tough time, there’s no question about it. But he will come back if we need his vote.”

Trump said he spoke to Cindy McCain by phone Sunday. “I wished her well. I wish John well,” he said.

Sen. McCain was hospitalized Wednesday while receiving chemotherapy treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, and at the nearby National Institutes of Health. He received a diagnosis early this year of glioblastoma, an aggressive, malignant brain tumor that can cause headaches, seizures, blurred vision and other symptoms.

News of McCain’s travel first emerged Sunday afternoon after his daughter Meghan McCain tweeted about the family’s holiday plans.

“Thank you to everyone for their kind words,” she wrote. “My father is doing well and we are all looking forward to spending Christmas together in Arizona. If you’re feeling charitable this Christmas @HeadfortheCure or @NBTStweets to help find a cure for brain cancer is what I recommend.”

Sen. McCain, 81, missed several Senate votes last week while at Walter Reed for treatment. He voted for the initial version of the tax bill, which includes sweeping tax cuts and initially passed the Senate with 51 votes. Without McCain, Republican leaders have a razor-thin margin to pass the final version, which has been in House-Senate negotiations, and cannot afford any more defections.

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But for Republicans, the bar to pass the legislation isn’t quite as high as initially feared. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said last week that they will vote for the measure, after indicating earlier that they would not.

McCain has been in “good spirits” while receiving treatment, Ben Domenech, Meghan McCain’s husband, said in an appearance Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“I’m happy to say that he’s doing well,” said Domenech, a conservative writer. “The truth is that as anyone knows whose family has battled cancer or any significant disease that oftentimes there are side effects of treatment that you have. The senator has been through a round of chemo and he was hospitalized this week at Walter Reed.”

McCain, Domenech added, “remains one of the toughest men on the face of the Earth, as you know.”

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