Washington (CNN) Just about all eyes were on the touching however somber scene unfolding on the United states senate floor: A line of senators waiting around to greet their colleague Sara McCain, who stood at their Senate desk hosting an improvised receiving line.
But I could not take my eyes off the visitor’s photo gallery above. There sat Cindy McCain, by herself in the front line, clutching a tissue while audibly sniffling as she tried within vain to push back tears since she watched the scene occur. Even her sunny yellow gown could not mask the reality of the bittersweet moment: her husband’s aggressive human brain cancer set off a bipartisan march of colleagues eager to show your pet respect.
That moment alone was poignant enough, but even more so facing the backdrop of the legislative drama upon health care.
I have been in the Senate chamber to observe several important events over the years, from the impeachment demo of Bill Clinton, to the election to authorize war after 9/11, but the nearly hour long swirl of emotion I witnessed Wednesday afternoon is seared in my storage.
Even before the vote to begin debate on Obamacare repeal started, the usual decorum of the Senate holding chamber was thrown off, thanks to greater than a dozen protesters in the visitors’ photo gallery pointing at Senators yelling “kill the bill” and “shame. inch
Protesters are not unusual, but what was remarkable was how long it took to have them out. Well after they left, these were so loud that senators can still hear them as the attendant was halfway through the alphabet within the roll call.
So it was a bit hard to listen to when West Virginia Republican Shelley Moore Capito, who had compared this measure last week, reversed training course and voted “yes. ” So when, soon after, Maine Republican Susan Collins voted “no. ”
That meant GOP market leaders could only afford to lose another vote.
Gowns what happened when it was Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s turn, and she screamed the word “no. ”
Normally when the Senate ballots, senators mill around and speak. But on rare occasions — big votes or speeches — they sit at their tables. This was one of those occasions, and as good fortune would have it, Collins and Murkowski’s desks are next to each other. You can sense a bit of relief that they acquired one another to fend off the furious vibes coming from GOP leaders to get flouting them — and the Leader.
And Democrats used a tactic to make their particular defiance even more stark. Democrats dropped to vote until all His party senators had cast theirs, to ensure that when the clerk read back the particular votes so far, the only names which were read were Republicans — mainly for, but only two towards. When their names were known as as “votes in the negative, inch Collins and Murkowski both smiled, as if that was the only expression that will seemed appropriate to cut the tension up on the GOP side.
But Republican leaders are not yet out of the woods. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a vocal critic of the process, hadn’t shown upward yet.
Whenever Johnson finally appeared, the United states senate Majority Leader was waiting for your pet, and the two men proceeded to possess a 10-minute intense conversation right in the center of the Senate floor. Though people in the press gallery above could not hear what they said, and didn’t want to see Johnson’s face, McConnell’s expression spoke volumes. The usually poker-faced GOP leader grew increasingly crimson, he crossed his arms, and also wiped his brow as he increased more and more animated.
Meanwhile, the number two Republican, David Cornyn, was standing right close to McConnell and Johnson, shifting their stance, pacing and just generally attempting not to look like he was hearing.
Other GOP senators also pretended not to observe. A few, like Lindsey Graham plus David Perdue, made beelines in order to Pat Toomey’s desk in the back of the bedroom to raid the candy cabinet (by tradition, whomever gets that one desk is tasked with stocking the candy).
It was only the dramatic entry of John McCain onto the particular Senate floor that broke the particular McConnell Johnson tete-a-tete. As soon as McCain walked in, the entire chamber engulfed in applause, and Johnson transferred away from McConnell to quietly throw a “yes” vote under the thunderous ovation for McCain, who furthermore came in and voted yes.
With that, and no election to spare, Vice President Paul Pence cast the tie-breaker, plus declared the vote to start discussion approved.
From legislative drama to human being drama
Meanwhile, McCain, who was eager to return in the arena on this big day not only to cast a vote, yet to be a statesman with a message to deliver
, has been at his desk trying to not get overwhelmed by the series of hey there he was receiving.
A handshake here, the pat on the back there, entertaining quips and heartfelt bear hugs from just about all of his co-workers — from conservative GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, whom McCain sparred with when he first found the Senate, to liberal Liberal Elizabeth Warren, who got to understand McCain tagging along on his popular globe-trotting adventures.
One humorous moment has been when Sen. Bernie Sanders wandered over to greet McCain, attempting a sort of bro-hug that didn’t quite property right — which turned into the lighter moment as both guys laughed.
Throughout it all, the McCain I use come to know covering him for nearly 20 years — a complicated and persuasive man — was on display. He or she clearly wanted this moment to return to the Senate he has loved offering in for 30 years to deliver a very kampfstark warning about how he has seen this go off course. But returning to provide that message meant coming in person with all of his colleagues at the same time for the first time since his cancer analysis, and grim prognosis.
And while McCain kept this together, his colleagues on both edges of the aisle, not to mention reporters within the press gallery, had a harder period.
The presentation was classic McCain — created with the help of his long time speechwriter, co-author, and former aide Mark Salter.
And though filled with tough love for colleagues to both sides of the aisle, it was mixed with his love for the US United states senate, and his country.
“Let’s trust each other. Let’s go back to regular order, ” McCain stated. “We’ve been spinning our tires on too many important issues since we keep trying to find a way to earn without help from across the section. ”