Ailing Republican senators John McCain and Thad Cochran missed votes this week, but their presence will be crucial early next week as the GOP tries to pass a sweeping $1.5 trillion tax package in the Senate with a razor-thin majority and all Democrats opposed to the legislation.
McCain, 81, of Arizona, is at a Washington-area military hospital being treated for the side effects of brain cancer treatment. Cochran, 80, of Mississippi, had a non-melanoma lesion removed from his nose earlier this week.
Adding to the uncertainty on Thursday was Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who said he would vote against the bill if negotiators failed to expand the child tax credit.
A Senate Armed Services Committee hearing opened Thursday without McCain in the chairman’s seat and members of the panel unsure when he’d return to Congress.
Cochran was away from Washington for several weeks this fall recovering from a urinary tract infection. When he returned in October, he appeared frail.
His absence this week is unrelated to his prior illness, according to his office. The outpatient procedure on his nose “ended up being more extensive than what the physician or the senator expected,” a spokesman said.
McCain’s closest friend on Capitol Hill, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters that he spoke with McCain’s wife, Cindy, earlier in the week and was optimistic McCain would be back to work soon. Graham dismissed the idea McCain should rush his recovery to vote on the GOP tax bill even though the margin for Senate passage is expected to be slim with a 52-48 Republican majority.
“John, take a little time, rest up. It’s OK to take a day or two off,” Graham said.