OPINION | McCain lifts the Senate

OPINION | McCain lifts the Senate
© Greg Nash

When Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senator suspending campaign fundraising, donating paycheck amid coronavirus pandemic Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Juan Williams: Biden's promises on women are a big deal MORE (R-Ariz.) returned to the Senate floor after being diagnosed with cancer he was greeted by fellow senators with a rousing ovation of admiration, respect and goodwill.

After casting the decisive vote in favor of proceeding to consider the Republican healthcare bill, and before casting the decisive vote against the GOP bill, McCain gave one of the most impassioned and important speeches in many years about the nature and future of the Senate.


McCain’s call to arms was for the Senate to return to its historic role as the great deliberative body, to rise above the partisanship and rancor that overwhelms American politics and distorts the Senate today. McCain wants to return the Senate to the regular order of committee hearings leading to a reasoned and respectful debate during which the rights of all senators would be respected, and the traditions of the Senate would be honored.


The traditional role of the Senate has been destroyed in recent years.  The Senate is now virtually indistinguishable from the House of Representatives. The founding fathers would be appalled. McCain is right.

By his recent presence, as always, McCain lifted the Senate. Given the fact that the Senate is almost equally divided between the two parties, and given the fact that Republicans now face significant internal divisions, McCain now has nearly decisive influence to determine the outcome in the Senate on many vital issues facing the nation.

In terms of pure vote-counting, going forward, as McCain goes, so goes the Senate.  At a time when the Republican president and Republican Congress will not have achieved even one major legislative victory during the first seven months of the Trump presidency, there are thoughtful senators in both parties who want to return the Senate to its historic role as McCain calls for.

The two most important questions in American politics are how much Gen.John Kelly, the new White House chief of staff, will be able to move the Trump administration toward a more regular order in the executive branch, and how much McCain will be able to move the Senate back toward its regular order in the legislative branch.

There is a dramatic opportunity for a major bipartisan breakthrough to create millions of high wage American jobs to rebuild America through a historic infrastructure bill.

There is a legitimate possibility, if both parties work together and compromise, to enact a significant tax bill.

There is an urgent need for both parties to work together to fix the problems in ObamaCare, ending the wrecking ball tactics of many Republicans, which help Democrats but harm the nation.

John McCain is a man of passionate patriotism who has proven his valor in war and his courage and integrity in peace. The moving applause of his Senate colleagues was authentic, and true, and noble, and a moment to remember about the Senate at its best.

McCain embodies the best of the American past and the potential of the American future, which need not be a future of permanent dysfunction in Washington and political cancer of national division that afflicts the body politic today.

McCain offers the Senate a better way, and may have the moral and political leverage to make good things happen.

McCain lifts the Senate by his noble presence, and I pray he has many more years to make his presence felt. Amen.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.