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McConnell praises McCain: 'A genuine American hero'

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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong 15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban It's not 'woketivism,' it's good business MORE (R-Ky.) praised Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain'Real Housewives of the GOP' — Wannabe reality show narcissists commandeer the party George W. Bush: 'It's a problem that Americans are so polarized' they can't imagine him being friends with Michelle Obama Congress brings back corrupt, costly, and inequitably earmarks 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 Cornyn15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban Cornyn defends controversial tweet as not about Biden's competency Media complicity in rise of the 'zombie president' conspiracy 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'Real Housewives of the GOP' — Wannabe reality show narcissists commandeer the party Graham: 'I could not disagree more' with Trump support of troop withdrawal Wall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study MORE (S.C.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFive reasons why US faces chronic crisis at border Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain Former GOP lawmaker: Republican Party 'engulfed in lies and fear' 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.