The death of Sen. John McCain from brain cancer Aug. 25 brought on a week of national mourning as political leaders and other Americans remembered and honored the longtime lawmaker and war hero.
Throughout his career, the Arizona Republican was seen as a maverick who often bucked his party on key issues.
One of the most prominent examples of that came last year when the Senate took up a bill to repeal Obamacare.
McCain, who had campaigned on repealing former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law in 2016, voted against legislation to do so a year later, infuriating President Donald Trump and GOP leaders in Congress for whom it was a top priority.
At McCain’s funeral Saturday at the National Cathedral in Washington, an old friend and former Senate colleague used the occasion to explain and defend the controversial Obamacare vote.
“When John returned to the Senate after his surgery last summer and voted against the Republican health care bill, some people accused him of being disloyal to his party and the president,” former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat from Connecticut who later became an independent, told the mourners. “But that was not the case.”
Lieberman lauded McCain’s speech to his colleagues on the night of the vote July 25, 2017.
“That speech made clear that his vote was not really against that bill,” Lieberman said, “but against the mindless partisanship that has taken control of both of our political parties and our government and produced totally one-sided responses to complicated national problems like health care.
“And, of course, he was right.”
Joe Lieberman defends John McCain's vote on health care bill last summer: "His vote was not really against that bill, but against the mindless partisanship that has taken control of both of our political parties." https://t.co/qPSvgqGwxJ pic.twitter.com/n4slxZ40qn
— ABC News (@ABC) September 1, 2018
Trump made it clear he viewed McCain’s vote as a betrayal.
In February, the president called out the senator without using his name during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“Except for one senator, who came into a room at 3 o’clock in the morning and went like that” — he imitated McCain’s thumbs down motion — “we would have had health care too. We would have had health care too. Think of that,” Trump said.
The president wasn’t invited to the senator’s funeral Saturday.
Lieberman went on to say at that service that McCain “spoke eloquently of our position in the world. Of America’s continuing responsibility for principal leadership in the world. It was as if he thought that might be one of his last best opportunities to move his colleagues and his country.
“It’s a speech worth reading, but I just want to quote one sentence: ‘What greater cause could we hope to serve than helping keep America the strong, aspiring, inspirational beacon of liberty and dignity and defender of the dignity of all human beings.’ That in short was the McCain American policy. Moral, engaged, and strong. Again, these words were not just rhetoric for John, he acted on them, he lived them.”
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