Circling within all of the drama around the Republican tax reform bill is one particularly serious topic of discussion: the health of prominent Republican senator John McCain, who is currently undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer. Those wondering if John McCain will make the GOP tax vote now have their answer — he will not. However, the people most closely involved with his treatment say that despite his exhaustion, everything is still going smoothly.
McCain was recently hospitalized in Washington, and he's now gone back to his home state of Arizona to continue his treatment there over the Christmas holidays. He will not be returning to the Senate until the new year, but his daughter wrote on Twitter to thank people for their well wishes and to say that that McCain was "doing well and we are all looking forward to spending Christmas together in Arizona."
The senator's office also released a statement along with his doctor on the subject of his health. "Senator McCain has returned to Arizona and will undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation at Mayo Clinic," the statement said. "He is grateful for the excellent care he continues to receive, and appreciates the outpouring of support from people all over the country. He looks forward to returning to Washington in January."
Back in July, McCain announced that he had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, a "highly malignant" tumor as classified by the American Brain Tumor Association. Glioblastoma originates in the brain, and is the most common form of brain cancer. Former Sen. Ted Kennedy succumbed to a long battle with glioblastoma, as did Joe Biden's son Beau. The median survival time for patients with glioblastoma is about a year, although 10 percent of people diagnosed with this type of tumor live at least five years. Treatment strategies include radiation and chemotherapy, and while McCain's doctors say that he has been responding well to treatment, it's also reportedly left him feeling fatigued — an exceedingly common side effect of cancer treatment.
“Senator McCain has responded well to treatment he received at Walter Reed Medical Center for a viral infection and continues to improve,” said Dr. Mark Gilbert, who was part of McCain's treatment team at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. “An evaluation of his underlying cancer shows he is responding positively to ongoing treatment.” McCain also said, according to his office, that he was "[looking] forward to returning to Washington in January."
As recently as last week, McCain's office released statements indicating that it wasn't out of the question that he would return before the Senate breaks for the holiday, meaning that there was still a chance that he would still be there in order to case a vote in favor of the tax bill. Now that McCain definitely won't be there, Senate Republicans still don't have to worry about passing the bill that could become President Trump's first major legislative achievement. They still hold a 52-48 majority, and given Vice President Mike Pence's tie breaker, they can afford to lose two Republican votes — from either absence or opposition — and still be able to pass the bill.
Sens. Marco Rubio and Bob Corker both expressed some opposition to the bill, but their complaints appear to have been satisfied, and they've now switched to saying that they would vote for it. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan seems to be optimistic about the bill passing, saying that “This is happening. Tax reform under Republican control of Washington is happening.”
The president also spoke a few words about the vote, and about the prospect of McCain's absence. "“[The McCains have] headed back, but I understand he’ll come if we ever needed his vote, which hopefully we won’t,” Trump said after speaking with Sen. McCain's wife Cindy. “But the word is that John will come back if we need his vote. And it’s too bad. He’s going through a very tough time, there’s no question about it. But he will come back if we need his vote.”