Returning to the Senate despite a diagnosis of brain cancer to cast a vote to begin debate on a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, Senator John McCain delivered an eloquent speech, sounding a clarion call for bipartisanship.
He noted that, in the past, the Senate has been called the “world’s greatest deliberative body.”
“I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today,” said McCain, a long-time Arizona senator who was the Republican nominee for president in 2008.
“Our deliberations today . . . are more partisan, more tribal . . . than at any time I can remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now, they aren’t producing much for the American people.”
He said both sides had let it happen “either by deliberate actions or by neglect.”
For his own part, he acknowledged, “Sometimes I’ve let my passion rule my reason.”
But he urged his fellow senators to work together to pass legislation.
“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio, and television, and the Internet. To hell with them!” he said, provoking applause from the chamber.
“Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle,” he said.
“We are getting nothing done, my friends, we’re getting nothing done,” he said.
While he cast a crucial vote to allow debate on the health care bill, he said he wouldn’t vote for it as it is currently formulated, calling it a “shell of a bill.” And he criticized the strategy of asking Republican senators to “swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition.”
“I don’t think that’s going to work in the end, and it probably shouldn’t,” he said.
He suggested that a committee could work on a bill and recommend a bill “with contributions from both sides.”
“Let’s see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today,” he said.
“What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting done much apart,” he said.