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For Sen. John McCain, A Momentous Few Days

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It has been a momentous few days for Arizona Senator John McCain.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We have some sad news to report tonight, no matter where you are on the political spectrum. Senator John McCain of Arizona has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

SIEGEL: It was just last week that McCain's office announced he'd been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It's very aggressive. It's very malignant. And again, it has a very low survival rate.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Senator McCain stayed in Arizona for his initial treatment. Senators offered support.

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LINDSEY GRAHAM: God knows how this ends, not me. But I do know this. This disease has never had a more worthy opponent.

SIEGEL: Then, on Tuesday, McCain made a dramatic return to Washington to deliver the decisive vote to allow debate on the health care bill.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Mr. McCain, aye...

MCEVERS: Then he gave a rousing speech on the Senate floor, pleading with his fellow senators to go back to the days of bipartisanship.

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JOHN MCCAIN: 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. We're getting nothing done, my friends. We're getting nothing done.

MCEVERS: But as debate continued throughout the week, McCain seemed to be sticking to the party line...

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Mr. McCain - Mr. McCain, aye...

MCEVERS: ...Which prompted criticism from some who wondered if it was hypocritical for him to return from high-quality cancer treatment to vote to repeal Obamacare.

SIEGEL: Perhaps he was waiting for a more dramatic moment to take a stand, a moment that came at 1:30 this morning.

After hushed huddles with other senators - Republicans and Democrats - and a conversation with Vice President Mike Pence, McCain walked down to the floor, extended his arm and gave a thumbs down.

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MCCAIN: No.

(APPLAUSE)

MCEVERS: His no vote joined those of Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the two Republicans who consistently voted no all week, along with the entire Democratic Caucus.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: The ayes are 49. The nays are 51. The amendment's not agreed to.

MCEVERS: Today, McCain's office announced the senator is returning to Arizona to begin radiation and chemotherapy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.
Kelly McEvers is a two-time Peabody Award-winning journalist and former host of NPR's flagship newsmagazine, All Things Considered. She spent much of her career as an international correspondent, reporting from Asia, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East. She is the creator and host of the acclaimed Embedded podcast, a documentary show that goes to hard places to make sense of the news. She began her career as a newspaper reporter in Chicago.