By JONATHAN LEMIRE, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. John McCain on Monday expressed thanks for the overwhelming support as he battles brain cancer, saying he is feeling well and looks forward to being back on the job in January.
The 81-year senator returned home to Arizona after being treated for a viral infection at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland. He had missed votes last week and will miss a crucial vote on the GOP tax bill this week.
McCain tweeted on Monday: “Thanks to everyone for your support & words of encouragement! I’m feeling well & looking forward to returning to work after the holidays.”
His wife, Cindy, tweeted earlier Monday: “Nothing beats the feeling of being home in Arizona for the Holidays!” with a photo of a Christmas tree.
A statement from his office late Sunday said he would undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Now in his sixth Senate term, McCain underwent surgery in mid-July to remove a 2-inch (51-millimeter) blood clot in his brain and was diagnosed with glioblastoma.
McCain’s daughter, Meghan, tweeted on Sunday: “My father is doing well and we are all looking forward to spending Christmas together in Arizona.”
In its statement on Sunday, McCain’s office provided an assessment from Dr. Mark Gilbert, chief of neuro-oncology at the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute.
“Senator McCain has responded well to treatment he received at Walter Reed Medical Center for a viral infection and continues to improve,” Gilbert said. “An evaluation of his underlying cancer shows he is responding positively to ongoing treatment.”
McCain’s closest friend in the Senate, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he hadn’t spoken to McCain but planned to do so over the holidays.
“The steroids and chemotherapy have been tough — be tough for anybody,” Graham told reporters Monday night. But he said he’s “encouraged that John’s going to be back in January and be good to go.”
President Donald Trump told reporters Sunday he had spoken to Cindy McCain.
“They’ve headed back, but I understand he’ll come if we ever needed his vote, which hopefully we won’t,” Trump said after returning to the White House from Camp David. “But the word is that John will come back if we need his vote. And it’s too bad. He’s going through a very tough time, there’s no question about it. But he will come back if we need his vote.”
This week, the GOP will try to pass a sweeping $1.5 trillion tax package in the Senate with a razor-thin majority and all Democrats opposed to the legislation.
Republicans hold a slim 52-48 advantage in the Senate, and McCain and Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., missed votes last week. The 80-year-old Cochran had a non-melanoma lesion removed from his nose earlier this week. He cast a vote Monday night on a nomination and is expected to vote on the tax bill.
Republicans secured the support of Maine Sen. Susan Collins on Monday, and they are poised to pass the bill by a narrow margin in the face of unified Democratic opposition. As a backstop, Vice President Mike Pence would be available to break a tie.
A vote is expected in the House and Senate on Tuesday. If approved, the measure would head to Trump for his signature on what will be his first major legislative accomplishment since taking office 11 months ago.
After his summer surgery, McCain rebounded quickly, returning to Washington and entering the Senate on July 25 to a standing ovation from his colleagues.
In a dramatic turn, he cast a deciding vote against the Republican health care bill — a move that drew the wrath of Trump and conservatives. McCain’s vote scuttled the seven-year effort by the GOP to dismantle much of President Barack Obama’s health care law.
But McCain’s condition has appeared to worsen in recent weeks. He suffered a minor tear in his right Achilles tendon, forcing him to wear a walking brace. McCain eventually began using a wheelchair, with members of his staff pushing him where he needed to go.
Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.