John McCain, the Arizona senator and former Republican presidential candidate, has been diagnosed with brain cancer.
A brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was removed from McCain along with a blood clot in a surgery at the Mayo Clinic on Friday, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.
McCain’s office had only previously announced that the blood clot had been removed from above the 80-year-old’s left eye.
The Mayo Clinic said in a statement released by McCain’s office: “The senator and his family are reviewing further treatment options with his Mayo Clinic care team. Treatment options may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. The senator’s doctors say he is recovering from his surgery ‘amazingly well’ and his underlying health is excellent.”
The surgery had forced McCain to stay in Arizona this week and miss votes in the Senate. It had led to a delay in the vote on the Senate Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was originally scheduled for Monday. Since the delay was announced, a sufficient number of Republican senators came forward to express their opposition to the bill and forced the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to shelve it and instead try to push a vote on a clean repeal of the ACA.
In a statement, the Arizona senator’s spokesperson said that “in the aftermath of his diagnosis, further consultations with [the] Mayo Clinic care team will indicate when he will return to the United States Senate”.
An extended absence would likely make it even more difficult for Republicans to repeal or replace the ACA, popularly known as Obamacare. Senate Republicans have a narrow 52-48 majority and, with the tie-breaking vote of Mike Pence, can only afford to lose two votes if McCain is present. His absence means that two Republican “no” votes would now sink any legislation if all 48 Democrats are unified in opposition.
McCain, who was re-elected to his sixth term in the Senate in 2016, was the Republican party’s presidential nominee in 2008 and finished second to George W Bush in the 2000 GOP presidential primary. Prior to his career in politics, McCain served as an aviator in the US navy, and was held as prisoner of war for five and a half years during the Vietnam war. While being held captive by the north Vietnamese, McCain was repeatedly subjected to torture. He retired as a captain after earning a number of decorations including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The Arizona senator’s illness sparked an outpouring of support from both sides of the aisle.
In a statement, Donald Trump said: “Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon.” Trump, who famously set off a political firestorm in 2015 by saying McCain was “not a war hero”, said earlier in the week of the Arizona senator: “We hope John McCain gets better very soon because we miss him. He’s a crusty voice in Washington. Plus we need his vote. And he’ll be back.”
Barack Obama, against whom McCain ran in the 2008 presidential election, tweeted: “John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.”
A number of McCain’s colleagues in the Senate also expressed their well wishes. In a statement, Mitch McConnell said: “John McCain is a hero to our Conference and a hero to our country. He has never shied from a fight and I know that he will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterized his life. The entire Senate family’s prayers are with John, Cindy and his family, his staff, and the people of Arizona he represents so well. We all look forward to seeing this American hero again soon.”
Outside a meeting of Senate Republicans to discuss healthcare reform on Wednesday night, senator John Hoeven of North Dakota said they had learned of the diagnosis during the meeting.
“It was very emotional – almost kind of stunned disbelief,” Hoeven told reporters. Senator James Lankford, of Oklahoma, then led them in prayer.
Hoeven said the senators had received a message from McCain via South Carolina senator Lindsay Graham, a close friend. The senator told them he was eager to “get back and get to work”, Hoeven added.
Graham was visibly emotional as he recalled his conversation with McCain when he learned of the diagnosis.
“He says, ‘I’ve been through worse’,” Graham told reporters. Five minutes into the call, however, McCain wanted to talk the legislative priories, Graham said.
“God knows how this ends,” he said. “But I do know this: This disease has never had a more worthy opponent.”
In a statement, McCain’s daughter Meghan said: “He is a warrior at dusk, one of the greatest Americans of our age, and the worthy heir to his father’s and grandfather’s name. But to me, he is something more. He is my strength, my example, my refuge, my confidante, my teacher, my rock, my hero – my Dad.”
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