The U.S. Congress on Friday will give the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) a rare tribute, as his remains will lie in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, with leaders of the House and Senate, along with Vice President Mike Pence, oaying tribute to the Arizona Republican who found ways to vex both political parties during his almost 35 years of service in the Congress.
“When he said something, you had to listen, you had to take notice,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). “You had to listen to John McCain.”
Like many Senators – new and old – Johnson told reporters of going overseas with McCain, and witnessing first hand the respect that McCain had, especially when it came to issues involving Russia.
“He was a national hero, not only to America, but to so many of these Eastern European countries that were trying to shed the legacy of the Soviet Union,” Johnson said. “You don’t replace that.”
The last time this honor was bestowed on a member of the Senate, it was for the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), who died in December of 2012.
McCain was first elected to the House in 1982, and then in 1986 won election to the Senate, succeeding Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ).
While foreign policy and defense matters were mainly identified with McCain’s time in office, he was also a lonely voice for many years fighting against pork barrel spending in the Congress – often to the frustration of his fellow lawmakers in both parties.
“John McCain’s legacy is fighting for something greater than one’s self,” the group Citizens Against Government Waste said this week, noting how McCain helped raise red flags about hte ‘pork-barrel spending habits of Washington.’
“For me, this chamber is never going to be the same without him,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) on the floor of the Senate. “This place, the Senate, and our country for that matter, is better off because of him.”
In recent days, Senators have started shadow boxing over the best way to honor McCain – some want to rename a Senate office building for him, stripping the name of Sen. Richard Russell of Georgia, a Democrat maybe best known for his opposition to civil rights legislation.
Senators from Georgia have frowned on that idea, as former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) said the best honor for McCain would be to make the Senate work in a bipartisan manner.
“John believed in the Senate,” Nunn said in a statement.
McCain was not only a force in politics, but also with reporters on Capitol Hill; he would almost always stop to answer questions, even from cub reporters who were just getting their ears wet in the halls of Congress.
Yes, there were times when the Arizona Republican might verbally rebuke you – but that was part of the daily give-and-take in the hallways.
While some Senators rarely stop in the hallways for interviews – Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is one that immediately comes to mind – others like McCain were almost always available.
On Friday, his casket will arrive at the Rotunda just before 11 am. After ceremonies with lawmakers, the public will be allowed to file past his casket in the Rotunda.
Officials have said they will keep the doors open into the night, as long as there are people in line.