Democratic congressman: McCain won't support GOP health bill because 'he's staring death in the face'

John McCain

REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) speaks during a press conference about his resistance to the so-called "Skinny Repeal" of the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2017.

A Pennsylvania congressman predicted this week that Sen. John McCain won't support the GOP's newest efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act because the Republican senator, recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, is "staring death in the face." 

Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright, taped while speaking at a town-hall event Tuesday, said he was somewhat worried about McCain's vote on the bill, known as Graham-Cassidy. But he suggested McCain's illness would help him "make good choices."

"Man, something tells me McCain, he's staring death in the face right now, so he's probably going to make good choices and he's not going to bend to political pressure," Cartwright said. 
The senator's daughter, Meghan, condemned the remark on Twitter on Thursday, calling it "disgusting and macabre."

Cartwright put out a statement later on Thursday apologizing for his comments and expressing his "deep admiration" for McCain. 

"I want to express my deep admiration for Senator McCain and gratitude for his service to our nation. I have reached out to apologize directly to him and his family for my statement about his illness, which I agree was insensitive, and which has clearly offended the McCain family," Cartwright said. "I know he will continue to fight for the people of Arizona and this country during his courageous battle with this disease. I wish him a speedy and full recovery."

McCain returned to the Senate full-time two weeks ago after undergoing brain surgery this summer and won accolades from Democrats when he became one of three Republicans to vote against the GOP's last healthcare bill. 

The senator has consistently insisted that Congress "return to regular order" and work out bipartisan legislation with committee markups and hearings. "Our healthcare insurance system is a mess. We all know it, those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. Something has to be done," McCain said in July. "We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven't found it yet, and I'm not sure we will. All we've managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn't very popular when we started trying to get rid of it."

While McCain is under pressure to yield to his Republican colleagues - and the bill's cosponsor, Lindsey Graham, is a close friend - he told reporters on Monday that he would continue to press for "regular order." 

"I am not supportive of the bill yet," McCain said of Graham-Cassidy. "It's not so much 60 votes that I care about, it's a bipartisan approach to the issue is what I mostly care about."