Former US Senator John McCain. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller
U.S. senators paid tribute to the life and legacy of John McCain on Monday (August 27), saying a powerful and independent voice had gone silent.
“The Senate won’t be the same without John McCain. I think it’s fair to say the passion that John brought to his work was unsurpassed in this body. In more than 30 years as a senator, he never failed to marshal a razor-sharp wit, a big heart and of course a fiery spirit,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said.
McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, longtime U.S. senator from Arizona and 2008 Republican presidential nominee, died of brain cancer on Saturday at age 81.
From across the aisle, the Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, also praised McCain’s dedication to the truth.
“He was unafraid to take on presidents. He was unafraid to take on his own party. He was equally parts funny and furious, foul-mouthed and statesmanlike. He could put the temper in temperament. He was a brave and honest man. He was a patriot,” Schumer said, adding that he was putting forth a resolution to change the name of the Senate office building where McCain worked to honor his name.
Schumer also read from a farewell statement from McCain in which he wrote: “Do not despair of our present difficulties. But believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit, we never surrender, we never hide from history, we make history. Farewell, fellow Americans.”
A vase of white roses sat on McCain’s empty desk on the Senate floor. The flag outside the Capitol building flew at half-staff.
The White House lowered its U.S. flag to half-staff, raised it back up and on Monday lowered it again after the death of McCain, in an unusual and confusing break with a protocol on the passing of a national leader.
President Donald Trump, who had clashed with fellow Republican McCain over various issues and said during his campaign that the senator was “not a war hero,” wavered in his approach to what presidents normally treat as a gesture of courtesy and respect.
Trump’s White House lowered its flag on Saturday, then raised it back following the minimum period under law. Trump also delayed issuing the customary proclamation for flags to remain at half-staff for longer than the two-day minimum.
Finally, under pressure from veterans and members of Congress, Trump said in a statement later on Monday that he respected McCain’s service to the nation and ordered flags to half-staff.
Presidents normally follow Congress’ lead on the death of a prominent lawmaker and order flags lowered until sunset on the day of burial. Critics of the president saw his reticence as a final slight against McCain.
McCain was a frequent Trump critic and his family has said he did not want the president to attend his funeral. — Reuters