McCain goes maverick-y

In the end, John McCain, whose career has been marked by periods of both swashbuckling independence and fall-in-line toeing-the-Republican party line, chose the former for what may go down as his most memorable and final big moment in the US Senate.

In the wee hours of the morning, the Arizona Republican cast the decisive vote to kill his party’s hapless efforts to push something — anything — over the finish line and declare victory in their seven-year vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

McCain, who returned to Washington for the health care showdown this week after learning he has an aggressive form of brain cancer, had people on both sides of the debate alternately praising and slamming him.

President Trump was full of praise earlier this week for McCain, whom he previously branded a loser because of McCain’s five-and-a-half years in a North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp. “So great that John McCain is coming back to vote. Brave – American hero! Thank you John,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

When McCain voted yes earlier this week on the pivotal motion — which passed by a single vote —  to allow the health care debate to proceed, liberals were unsparing in their denunciations.They charged that there was nothing heroic about McCain, while receiving top-notch medical care for a deadly illness, jetting across the country to help strip coverage from millions of other Americans.

But when he cast the decisive vote at 1:30 Friday morning to kill the Republicans’ last-gasp effort — the so-called “skinny repeal” — McCain quickly became the guy who saved Obamacare. This Washington Post account captures the rare moment of true drama that unfolded on the Senate floor — and it makes clear how much McCain enjoyed being at the center of it.

Many were quick to point out that McCain’s made-for-movies moment was only possible because two women Republican colleagues, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, had been unwavering in their opposition to all of the Republican plans being put forth. Their steadfast stand in the face of White House pressure made it possible to kill the repeal effort if just one fellow Republican joined them.

Their opposition was in many ways rooted in the last remaining wisps of moderate Republicanism — they objected to the loss of health coverage for millions of Americans that the GOP plans would cause. McCain’s vote was as much about his objection to the process as the product of the repeal efforts. He found the Republican efforts to ram through sweeping bills being drawn up only hours before the roll call votes unseemly and reckless.

When he spoke on the Senate floor on Tuesday, McCain ripped an institution once heralded as the “world’s greatest deliberative body.”

“I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today,” he said with considerable understatement. He said the Senate’s “arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all. The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries.”

The early read on today’s vote is that it will force just such bipartisan cooperation on revisions to the health care law.

McCain also had harsh words for the vitriol of the airwaves that has seeped into congressional dealings. “Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet,” he implored his colleagues in his Tuesday speech. “To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good.”

It’s hard to not think he was including in that class of internet bottom-feeders the leading purveyor of Twitter bile. McCain made clear yesterday his views on the president’s preference for policy pronouncements via 140-character Twitter bursts when he slammed Trump for both the substance and half-baked method of delivering his new policy against transgender military service personnel.

“Let’s trust each other,” McCain said in his Tuesday floor speech. “Let’s return to regular order.”

Whatever the ultimate outcome, McCain’s vision for how to deal with the complexities of national health care reform emerged as a winner.

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

A pregnant worker bill backed by Sen. Joan Lovely of Salem is signed into law. (Salem News)

With Gov. Charlie Baker poised to sign the revamped marijuana law today, the rocky road to launching the new industry now begins (Boston Globe) A Herald story rips the secrecy surrounding who might be appointed to the five-member Cannabis Control Commission that is supposed to be in place by September 1.

WGBH’s Mike Deehan suggests the Beacon Hill debate over MassHealth reforms could be a prologue for next year’s governor’s race. Will Baker sign or veto legislation that includes his proposed tax on employers but omits the Medicaid reforms he proposed? He’s not saying. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Anthony Scaramucci is the White House communications director, and, boy, does he show how the Trump White House communicates in this interview with The New Yorker.

A House spending bill includes a $1.6 billion down payment on President Trump’s controversial border wall with Mexico. (Associated Press)

Are the president’s tweets binding policy directives? That question was raised as top military officials said they wouldn’t implement Trump’s tweet barring transgender people from serving in the military until they receive a formal policy directive from the White House. (Time)

ELECTIONS

John Kingston, the Winchester Republican who is mulling a Senate bid against Elizabeth Warren, will hold a “cocktails and dinner” event next week at a Seaport steakhouse as he ramps up a possible campaign. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The state’s biggest debt collection agency, Lustig, Glaser & Wilson, agrees to pay $1 million and changes its business practices to settle claims brought by Attorney General Maura Healey. (State House News)

EDUCATION

The state Senate voted unanimously to jettison the state’s English-only education law in favor of a return to bilingual classes, a measure that now goes to a House-Senate conference committee. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Edward M. Murphy says deregulated health care is not the answer to escalating prices. (CommonWealth)

New England has the highest rate of fentanyl overdose deaths in the country. (Boston Globe) Columnist Rick Holmes condemns the lack of leadership nationally on the opioid crisis.(Metrowest Daily News)

TRANSPORTATION

Three Cape Ann lawmakers rip the MBTA’s plan to improve WiFi service on commuter rail trains by building 74-foot monopoles along the tracks. (Gloucester Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Hydro-Quebec, considered the inside favorite for a massive state clean energy contract, partners up with three separate transmission firms — long-time partner Eversource and newcomers TDI New England, and Central Maine Power. (CommonWealth)

The Globe has a gripping account of the effort to rescue an 8-year-old boy trapped under the overturned boat he and his parents were on when it capsized at the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal on Wednesday.

The Clean River Project removes eight junked cars from the Merrimack River, bringing to 81 the total number of vehicles removed over the last four years. (Eagle-Tribune)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Gov. Charlie Baker says he wants to review the standards for civil commitment of sex offenders in the wake of today’s release of pedophile priest Paul Shanley who served 12 years in prison. (Boston Herald)

Fuzzy math: It’s complicated, but a number of Boston police officers managed to get paid for 24 hours — or in one case even 31 hours — of work over a 24-hour period. (Boston Herald)

About half a dozen headstones were knocked over in a Jewish cemetery in Melrose on Thursday. (Boston Globe)

West Bridgewater is getting a high-end security camera at a busy intersection that its police chief says will help nab getaway cars used in crime. (The Enterprise)

MEDIA
Media critic Dan Kennedy says President Trump didn’t know what he was doing when he banned transgender troops from the military. (Media Nation)