McConnell praises McCain: 'A genuine American hero'

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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump hints at new executive action on immigration, wants filibuster-proof Senate majority The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump MORE (R-Ky.) praised Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Another recession could hit US in 2019, says credit union association chief R-E-S-P-E-C-T: One legacy of Franklin and McCain is up to us 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 CornynKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford 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 Graham GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Collins: Kavanaugh accuser should 'reconsider,' testify on Monday Grassley willing to send staff to California to speak with Kavanaugh accuser MORE (S.C.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Key GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Gillibrand: Kavanaugh accuser shouldn't participate in 'sham' hearing 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.