McConnell praises McCain: 'A genuine American hero'

McConnell praises McCain: 'A genuine American hero'
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Hillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans On The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal MORE (R-Ky.) praised Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainObama, Bush veterans dismiss Trump-Putin interpreter subpoena Controversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin MORE (R-Ariz.) on Monday, calling him "a genuine American hero" who has the "deepest respect" for his colleagues.

McConnell did not mention the White House during his floor speech, which he characterized as being sparked by a visit he made over the weekend to visit McCain in Arizona.

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But his comments come as the administration is playing defense and refusing to apologize after staffer Kelly Sadler dismissed McCain's opposition to Gina Haspel's CIA nomination by saying, "it doesn't matter, he's dying anyway."

McConnell said he and McCain "reminisced" during his visit and "had some laughs."

"We all know his story all too well. A genuine American hero. We admire the tenacity and the grit that it took to survive those 5 1/2 years in the Hanoi Hilton," the Senate GOP leader added.

McCain has been absent from Washington for months as he battles brain cancer. But the 81-year-old senator remains engaged, returning to defeat the GOP plan to repeal ObamaCare and weighing in last week to urge his colleagues to reject Haspel's nomination.

His opposition to Haspel sparked a days-long scandal for the White House after Sadler's comments about McCain were leaked.

White House spokesman Raj Shah confirmed on Monday that Sadler called McCain's daughter, Meghan McCain, to apologize for her remarks, but indicated a public apology will not be forthcoming because the issue is being handled "internally."

Several Republican senators have urged the White House to apologize. Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Senate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, separately said on Monday that an apology from Sadler would be "appropriate" after she said a "really dumb thing."

McConnell is the latest GOP senator to travel to Arizona to meet with John McCain. GOP Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamQuestions mount over Trump-Putin discussions The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Overnight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria MORE (S.C.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Senate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials MORE (Ariz.) also visited him in recent weeks.

McConnell added on Monday that McCain "still has plenty to say about work" and "misses his colleagues."

"He'd rather be here. And I told him we miss him too. ... I said I was confident I was speaking for everybody in the Senate in conveying our deepest respect to him for all he's done for his country during a truly extraordinary life," he added.