McConnell praises McCain: 'A genuine American hero'

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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellO'Rourke responds to Buttigieg's gun criticism: 'That calculation and fear is what got us here in the first place' Cicilline on Trump investigations versus legislation: 'We have to do both' The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Ky.) praised Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Biden's debate performance renews questions of health At debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR 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 Cornyn The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Congress set to ignore Trump's wall request in stopgap measure 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 GrahamBolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Graham: US should consider strike on Iranian oil refineries after attack on Saudi Arabia MORE (S.C.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake donates to Democratic sheriff being challenged by Arpaio in Arizona The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says US-China trade talks to resume, hails potential trade with Japan, UK Joe Arpaio to run for Maricopa County sheriff in 2020  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.