Well, that didn't take long. Less than two weeks after John McCain's "no" vote on the Obamacare "skinny repeal" helped stop the bill in its tracks, one of the Arizona senator's colleagues has come out with a fascinating theory on why McCain voted to sink the bill. In an interview on a radio show on Tuesday, Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, implied McCain's brain tumor affected his health care vote, and after intense backlash, apologized Thursday on CNN.
McCain, along with Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, were the three GOP senators who effectively blocked the skinny repeal from going through. While Murkowski and Collins' opposition had been all but assured, McCain's dramatic late-night vote came as a surprise to his fellow Republicans. Johnson's comments on the matter, however, didn't center on the implications of the bill. Instead, he focused on the brain tumor that McCain is currently battling.
"I'm not going to speak for John McCain — he has a brain tumor right now — that vote occurred at 1:30 in the morning, some of that might have factored in," said Johnson on Tuesday, in a comment that seemed to have surprised even the radio host.
When the host pressed him on it, Johnson ineffectively tried to dial back his statement, saying the following:
Again, I don't know exactly what — we really thought — and again I don't want speak for any senator. I really thought John was going to vote yes to send that to conference at 10:30 at night. By about 1, 1:30, he voted no. So, you have talk to John in terms what was on his mind.
The belief that McCain's vote was influenced by his brain tumor and the late night — implying that McCain may not have been in his right mind during the vote — instead of the damaging nature of the skinny repeal was not met well on Capitol Hill. A McCain spokeswoman put out a statement saying that it was "bizarre and deeply unfortunate that Senator Johnson would question the judgment of a colleague and friend," and that "Senator McCain has been very open and clear about the reasons for his vote."
That seems to have gotten through to Johnson himself, who told CNN on Thursday that he was "disappointed [he] didn't more eloquently express my sympathy for what Sen. McCain is going through." He added:
I was just expressing sympathy for his condition. Again, I've got the greatest respect for John McCain. He's not impaired in any way, shape or form.
"I have nothing but respect for him, and the vote came at the end of a long day for everyone," Johnson went on to say. Given the public opposition to the Obamacare repeal and the public support for Obamacare, though, Johnson would probably do better looking at the Republican proposal's drawbacks than on chalking its failure up to a late night and a colleague's brain tumor.