Senator John McCain jokes Senate panel will have to “waterboard” Senator John Kerry “to get the truth out of him.”

WASHINGTON _ Senator John McCain on Tuesday joked to reporters that Senator John F. Kerry might get more than the usual grilling when he appears Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing as secretary of state.

“We will look forward to interrogating him at his hearing next week, mercilessly,” the Arizona Republican joked about the Massachusetts Democrat at a Capitol Hill press conference. “We will bring back for the only time waterboarding to get the truth out of him.”

If anyone has earned the right to make light of torture, it is McCain, who spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, where he was brutally beaten. He led the fight after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to block the use of certain “enhanced interrogation” techniques approved by the Bush Administration such as water boarding, in which a person is exposed to simulated drowning.

Kerry is a Vietnam War veteran who led a movement against the conflict when he returned home.

Kerry’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday at 10.a.m. He is slated to appear before the panel he chairs for his confirmation hearing to be secretary of state. In his absence as chairman, the hearing will be overseen by Senator Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat.

McCain’s comments came as he and fellow lawmakers briefed reporters about the situation in Syria following a visit to the Middle East, where he visited a refugee camp in Jordan that housed Syrians who fled the brutal crackdown by the government of Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad.

McCain has been critical of the Obama administration for not doing more to aid the rebels and expressed hope that as the chief diplomat Kerry, who has also been criticized for not calling for the ouster of Assad sooner, will take a more forceful approach to easing the humanitarian disaster.

Human rights officials estimate as many as 60,000 people have been killed during the conflict since 2010.

“We had a good conversation with Senator Kerry,” McCain said. “We have had numerous conversations over a long period of time,” McCain said. “He is very concerned about the issue and I think he shares the priorities that we are discussing today.”

MCain is not expected to go so easy on another Vietnam veteran and former senator, Chuck Hagel, who goes before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday for his conformation hearing to be secretary of defense. The Nebraska Republican has drawn fire for a variety of views, particularly on Iran and Israel.

Bender can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeBender

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