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Sen. Ron Johnson: maybe John McCain voted down the health care bill because of his brain tumor

Senators McCain, Graham, Cassidy and Johnson Discuss Health Care Reform
Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) (C), Ron Johnson (R-WI) (L) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has already explained why he chose to vote against the Senate’s health bill, but Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) had a different theory: Maybe it was his brain tumor.

“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 in a radio interview last week, first surfaced by CNN.

McCain announced he had been diagnosed with brain cancer the week before the health care vote, after having surgery to remove a blood clot from behind his eye. He is currently at home in Arizona undergoing treatment.

In coming back to Washington to vote, questions around McCain’s health were largely around the dangers of flying cross-country mid-recovery from brain surgery. Johnson, however, continued to assert that McCain’s medical condition potentially compromised his vote:

Again, I-I-I don't know exactly what — we really thought — and again I don't want speak for any senator. I really thought John was going to vote yes to send that to conference at 10:30 at night. By about 1, 1:30, he voted no. So you have talk to John in terms what was on his mind.

Needless to say, McCain’s team was shocked by the comments.

"It is bizarre and deeply unfortunate that Senator Johnson would question the judgment of a colleague and friend. Senator McCain has been very open and clear about the reasons for his vote,” McCain spokesperson Julie Tarallo told CNN.

The backlash prompted Johnson to expand on his earlier interview with an apology of sorts — stating he was “disappointed” in his own lack of eloquence about McCain’s medical condition.

In his statement, Johnson reiterated his second point: That the vote did in fact happen in the middle of the night.

McCain was the decisive vote to kill a proposal to repeal the individual mandate, delay the employer mandate, and leave large portions of Obamacare intact. Most Republican senators — including Johnson — voted in favor of the “skinny repeal” with an assurance from House Speaker Paul Ryan that it would not pass the House and instead would serve as a tool to begin negotiations between chambers.

But McCain said he was not comfortable voting for a bill on that assurance alone.

“The Speaker's statement that the House would be ‘willing’ to go to conference does not ease my concern that this shell of a bill could be taken up and passed at any time,” he said in a statement.

Throughout the health care debate, McCain repeatedly chided Senate leadership for approaching the process in a secretive, rushed, and partisan manner, and used his vote as a call for regular order.

“We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people,” McCain said in his statement.