John McCain, the six-term Arizona senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee, passed away at his Arizona ranch with his family after a battle with brain cancer on Saturday.
He was 81.
McCain had recently decided to discontinue medical treatment. Though McCain had “surpassed expectations for survival,” the family said in an Aug. 24 statement about the decision that “the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict.”
The senator had been away from the Capitol since December. Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is expected to name a replacement who would serve out the remainder of McCain’s term through the 2020 election.
The son and grandson of Navy admirals, McCain was a former Navy pilot and was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years. He was elected to Congress in the early 1980s and elected to the Senate in 1986, replacing Barry Goldwater who retired. McCain gained a reputation as a lawmaker who was willing to stick to his convictions rather than go along with party leaders.
He was a frequent target of criticism from President Donald Trump, especially for his vote against a Republican replacement for “Obamacare,” the health care law approved under President Barack Obama. Trump signed a military policy bill this month named for McCain, but in a sign of their testy relationship the president made no mention of McCain’s name in remarks at a signing ceremony.
On Aug. 24, McCain’s wife, Cindy, took to Twitter to say: “I love my husband with all of my heart. God bless everyone who has cared for my husband along this journey.”
McCain underwent surgery in July 2017 to remove a blood clot in his brain after being diagnosed with an aggressive tumor called a glioblastoma. It’s the same type of tumor that killed Sen. Edward M. Kennedy at age 77 in 2009.
McCain rebounded quickly, however, returning to Washington and entering the Senate in late July to a standing ovation from his colleagues. In a dramatic turn, he later cast a deciding vote against the Republican health care bill, earning the wrath of Trump, who frequently cites McCain’s vote at campaign events.
McCain’s condition worsened last fall and he has been in Arizona since December.
McCain was a long-term survivor of melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. Doctors classified his brain cancer as a “primary tumor,” meaning it was not related to his former malignancies.
McCain ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, then won it in 2008 before losing the general election to Obama.
He returned to the Senate, determined not to be defined by a failed presidential campaign in which his reputation as a maverick had faded.
When Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, McCain, the scion in a decorated military family, embraced his new influence as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, pushing for aggressive U.S. military intervention overseas and eager to contribute to “defeating the forces of radical Islam that want to destroy America.”
Asked how he wanted to be remembered, McCain said simply: “That I made a major contribution to the defense of the nation.”
When it was announced Sen. McCain was discontinuing cancer treatment earlier this week, we didn’t think he’d be passing so soon. May he rest.