Infuriated that the government shutdown has delayed the payment of death benefits to the families of fallen American soldiers, Sen. John McCain railed against the “false premise” offered by some of his fellow Republicans that it is possible to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“To somehow think that we were going to repeal Obamacare, which would have required 67 Republican votes [in the Senate] was a false premise, and I think we did the American people a great disservice by convincing them somehow we could,” McCain, R-Ariz., said. "We started out with a false premise on this side of the aisle."
The 67-vote margin is what Senate Republicans would need to overturn a presidential veto of any measure that delayed or derailed Obamacare — an unlikely achievement given that Democrats run the Senate and White House and Republicans hold just 46 of the Senate's 100 seats.
McCain, a former Navy pilot who spent nearly six years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, passionately criticized Congress for its failure to negotiate a compromise that would end a government shutdown that on Tuesday was entering its second week.
“Shouldn’t we be embarrassed about this? Shouldn’t we be ashamed?” McCain asked. “What do the American people think when they see that death benefits for those who served and sacrificed in the most honorable way… are not even eligible for death benefits?”
McCain spoke to a nearly-full chamber, because Senate Democrats made the rare move of calling all senators to the floor. In addition to the delay of military death benefits, McCain noted that the shutdown also prevented charities from delivering food to people trapped in the Grand Canyon.
“I frankly, get a little bit emotional,” he said. “The list goes on and on, of people, of innocent Americans who have fallen victim to the reality that we can’t sit down and talk like grown-ups.”
Suggesting negotiations over the medical device tax and removing special health care benefits to Congress, McCain said, "there's a number of issues that we could down and negotiate within an hour if we will stop attacking each other and impugning people's integrity."
"Let's start this afternoon," McCain implored. "I don't care who it is or how it's shaped. But let's sit down and get out of this so that these families whose loved ones just died will receive the benefits at least that would give them some comfort and solace in this terrible hour of tragedy."