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Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin stunned a local radio host Wednesday when he suggested that Sen. John McCain’s recent diagnosis of brain cancer may have been a factor in his vote on the GOP healthcare bill.
According to CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, Johnson told a Chicago talk-radio station that House Speaker Paul Ryan had guaranteed a key stipulation for McCain: that the final iteration of the Republican healthcare bill would go to a conference committee and not become law.
Despite this assurance, Johnson said, McCain still voted against the so-called skinny repeal legislation, effectively ending the bid to repeal and replace Obamacare for now.
“Again, I’m not gonna speak for John McCain – he has a brain tumor right now – that vote occurred at 1:30 in the morning, some of that might have factored in,” Johnson said.
“Really?” replied one of the radio hosts, saying McCain recovered from surgery on a blood clot near the tumor and “flew all the way out to Washington DC.”
“You really think that played a factor in his judgment call?” the host asked.
“Again, I don’t want to speak for any senator,” Johnson said. “I really thought John was going to vote ‘yes’ and send that to conference at 10:30 at night and by about 1:00, 1:30, he voted no. So you’d have to talk to John about what was on his mind.”
A spokesperson for Johnson did not immediately return a request for further comment. In a statement, a McCain spokesman said it was “bizarre and deeply unfortunate” that Johnson would question McCain’s judgment.
“Senator McCain has been very open and clear about the reasons for his vote,” the statement said.
Following the backlash Johnson released a statement apologizing for his comments.
“I’m disappointed I didn’t more eloquently express my sympathy for what Sen. McCain is going through,” Johnson’s statement said. “I have nothing but respect for him and the vote came at the end of a long day for everyone.”
McCain was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer in July after having brain surgery in Arizona to remove a blood clot above his left eye. Less than a week after the diagnosis – and before starting treatment – he returned to Washington to vote on the bill.
At the time of his surgery, his doctors called his underlying health “excellent,” and McCain was well enough to deliver a speech on Tuesday, as well as participate in a press conference criticizing the healthcare bill. Following his vote, he gave detailed statements about his decision to vote “no.”
Lydia Ramsey contributed reporting.