John McCain has had an extraordinary life. He’s been in Congress since 1983 and in the Senate since 1987. He ran for president twice, once becoming the Republican Party nominee. He also survived a bout of melanoma in 2000 and, of course, he valiantly served in the military and was famously a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Neither his public service nor his bravery is in question, regardless of what our Clown-in-Chief tweets.
Last week, news broke that Sen. McCain had a brain tumor. Even with this diagnosis, McCain got himself down to the Capitol on Tuesday to cast a vote in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s devious plot to repeal and, maybe, replace Obamacare.
According to the American Brain Tumor Association, roughly 80,000 new brain tumor cases will be diagnosed this year and almost 700,000 people in the United States are living with some form of this disease. Once again, McCain has found himself in an extraordinary situation. While Congressional members have different options for getting healthcare, there is no question that they have both the options and the financial means. As a veteran, McCain is also entitled to VA benefits. His employment is stable. He will have all the time and flexibility he needs to recover, along with the wealth and insurance coverage to support any option of treatment that he chooses.
Most Americans do not have these privileges. And they had even fewer choices before the Affordable Care Act’s passage.
Before Obamacare, insurance companies could simply decide that you did not deserve coverage because you were too expensive. Or they would increase your premium so much that a plan became unaffordable. Obamacare certainly has issues, but Republicans are not talking about fixing them and enshrining the underlying intent of the law. Rather, they are making reckless decisions that could endanger people’s healthcare and their lives.
The debate as to whether or not McCain would make it for the vote on Tuesday raged until he walked through the chamber door, met by thunderous applause from both sides of the aisle. Applause for a man relying on the luxury of healthcare that he subsequently voted to dismantle.
His frequent quip about being ‘older than dirt with more scars than Frankenstein’ is a maxim well-suited to the political arena. But for the average American, those traits could be considered pre-existing conditions or be a risk for maxing out a lifetime limit, both things that, without Obamacare, could bar people from getting and keeping health insurance.
When Sen. McCain stood after the vote and lambasted his Senate colleagues about the history and prestige of the office, outlets reported that there wasn’t a dry eye in the chamber. But if McCain truly cared about Senate protocol, why did he ensure his presence for a vote unprecedented in both speed and secrecy? If McCain had stayed home, the brave efforts of Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski would have carried the day. As Sen. McCain pretended to revere bipartisan efforts, he guaranteed that the two senators actually pushing for bipartisanship were outvoted.
All John McCain proved in this extraordinary moment is that he is no different than his Republican counterparts who are ready to roll over and play dead for this antagonistic administration. Yet, to the millions of Americans facing imminent health issues, playing simply isn’t an option.