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

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMichelle Obama weighs in on Trump, 'Squad' feud: 'Not my America or your America. It's our America' Meghan McCain shares story of miscarriage Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite 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 InhofeSenate panel advances Pentagon chief, Joint Chiefs chairman nominees Trump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Trump says US will not sell Turkey F-35s after Russian missile defense system purchase 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 John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller 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 Stanley KingPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Senate panel advances Pentagon chief, Joint Chiefs chairman nominees Overnight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey 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.”