McCain still 'calls the shots' on Armed Services Committee from Arizona, Inhofe says

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Will Trump choose megalomania over country? Trump attacks Meghan McCain and her family MORE (R-Ariz.) continues to “call the shots” for the panel while battling brain cancer in Arizona, the committee’s No. 2 Republican says.

“I’m chairing the meetings, but we’re chairing the meetings consistent with what John feels we should be doing,” Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan GOP lawmakers worry vaccine mandate will impact defense supply chain Top GOP senators want joint review of Afghan visa process MORE (R-Okla.) said in a clip released Friday of an interview for C-SPAN’s "Newsmakers." “In fact, actually deciding on what hearings we’re having, that’s a decision that’s coming out of the chairman, who is John McCain.

“So obviously during his recovery period, he can’t be here for these, and you can’t stop everything now. So I give you two answers to that: He’s calling the shots, and I’m showing up.”

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McCain, one of Congress’s most prominent voices on defense issues, was diagnosed in July with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

He returned home in mid-December to recover from side effects associated with his treatment. At the time, his office said he would return to D.C. in January, but no official update on his return has come since.

McCain has missed several high-profile votes, including the final vote on the GOP tax bill and votes on stopgap spending measures to keep the government open. But he’s continued to make his voice heard, issuing blistering statements on the government shutdown and penning a searing op-ed on President TrumpDonald TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE’s handling of the press.

While McCain is at home, Inhofe has chaired three Armed Services Committee hearings.

McCain’s absence on the committee has been felt. At a mostly genial confirmation hearing last week for several acquisition-related positions, Sen. Angus KingAngus KingPennsylvania Republican becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats GOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill MORE (I-Maine) commented on how McCain, a frequent critic of acquisition programs run amuck, would have handled the nominees.

“If Sen. McCain were here, he'd be talking about accountability,” King said. “He's always looking for who we can fire.”

And in Thursday’s national security strategy hearing with former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, each witness started with their well wishes for McCain.

Kissinger recalled first meeting McCain after he returned from being a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

“At that time, I had been in Hanoi and they had offered to let me take him on my plane back to the United States, and I refused on the grounds that nobody should get special treatment,” Kissinger recalled. “And, when I met him here at the White House, he came up to me and said, ‘Thank you for saving my honor.’ 

“And Sen. McCain has preserved the honor of our country as a great warrior, but also as someone who, wherever the weak were threatened and the just were persecuted, he made it clear that America was on their side and that he was not simply a warrior, but a defender of our values all over the world.”