In the opening scene from the FRONTLINE documentary, “McCain,” the six-term senator’s colleagues reveal new details from the night of his deciding vote against the GOP’s bill to repeal Obamacare.
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McCain had been diagnosed with a deadly form of brain cancer just over a week before, and returned to Capitol Hill for the vote on what would have been Trump’s first major legislative achievement.
“[Sen.] Lisa Murkowski (R-Ariz.) and I knew that he had reservations,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a longtime colleague of McCain’s, tells FRONTLINE. “We were talking with him about the bill. And all of a sudden, he pointed to both of us and he said, ‘You know, you two are right.’”
Then, Collins says, she felt a tap on her shoulder. It was Vice President Mike Pence, who had come to pressure McCain to support the president.
“The vice president stood toe to toe with John McCain,” Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) tells FRONTLINE. “And he was in his space. It was very close. They went on for, I don’t know, it seemed like 15 or 20 minutes, back and forth, back and forth.”
Ultimately, King says, Pence turned on his heel and walked away. And then came McCain’s “thumbs down” vote — striking the crushing blow against a key campaign promise that had been made by a president who had criticized McCain’s Vietnam war record, called him a “dummy,” and portrayed him as a symbol of the old Republican Party.
“McCain,” an exploration of Sen. John McCain’s complicated relationship with President Trump and his own Republican Party, premieres beginning Tues., April 17 at 10/9c on PBS & online: https://to.pbs.org/2GD55N2
FRONTLINE is streaming more than 200 documentaries online, for free, here: http://to.pbs.org/hxRvQP
Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation, the Park Foundation, The John and Helen Glessner Family Trust, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.