Senators McCain And Hirono Were Honored In Bipartisan Cancer Fundraising Initiative

07/28/2017 05:51 pm ET Updated Jul 29, 2017

OK, so you don’t really want to send John McCain a thank you teddy bear.

But especially today, the morning after the cliffhanger night when the 7-year GOP campaign to bury Obamacare went down in flames, maybe you’re giddy that the GOP has fallen flat on its face. In fact, maybe you’re dancing on the rooftops. And, if you’re like me, you’ve already called or written the heroes of this saga — Senators Lisa Murkowsky, Susan Collins, Lindsay Graham, John McCain, plus saying thanks to Chuck Schumer and a few Democratic senators in red states. Certainly, progressives are regrouping for the next wave of legislative assaults, administration drama and outrages, and a half-dozen other simultaneous crises on other fronts. Still, how else to smell the roses and acknowledge this milestone success on the health care front?

I couldn’t help but note that in last night’s tumultuous, Alice-in-Wonderland Senate vote two Senators from different parties, both cancer patients, voted no in the 49-51 vote.

Both of these Senators who voted against the bill are fighting aggressive cancers. John McCain, known for his appetite for heroics, intentionally stole the show with his dramatic, last minute vote, right down to the stagecraft of his giving it a “thumbs down” after being lobbied hard and long by the Vice President. This came on the heels of his Polonius-like lecture to the Senate a few days earlier, calling on that deliberative body to return to its august roots of discussion, debate, and hearings—a speech infuriatingly timed right after he cast the decisive vote on a motion to proceed, letting a non-nonsensical debate continue. McCain had brain surgery recently; his return to the Senate after receiving a diagnosis of aggressive cancer was heralded on both sides of the aisle.

Senator Hirono, whose “no” vote was never in doubt, received less attention for her honest, powerfully emotional speech on the Senate floor pleading for compassion from her colleagues.She underwent surgery this week for stage 4 kidney cancer.

Lucky for them, both senators have pretty good health insurance coverage; Congress was exempted from the proposed Republican cuts in health insurance.

Two US Senators known to be under treatment for cancer voted against GOP health plan on July 28, 2017. Hawaii Senator Mazie H
Source: US Senate website
Two US Senators known to be under treatment for cancer voted against GOP health plan on July 28, 2017. Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono is a Democrat. Arizona Senator John McCain is a Republican.

Any fool knows that getting, to quote Donald hyperbole, “great health care, at a tiny fraction of the cost—and it’s going to be so easy” —as Trump said at a Florida campaign rally in October 2016, as reported by Politico — is not going to be easy nor is it going to happen by either magic or fiat. Getting to more universal, affordable coverage, or even Medicare for all, can only happen by legislators working together in a transparent, informed, deliberative process that serves the public good, not political masters.

Compared to the stunning civil disobedience in the halls of the Senate by ADAPT members in wheelchairs yelling, “I’d rather go to jail than die without Medicaid’; the dramatic “die-in” protests staged nationwide, and other remarkable protest actions, making a contribution to a big-budget mainstream organization seems beyond tame. Agreed.

But a contribution to the American Cancer Society, or another cancer-related organization in the name of the unlikely pair, McCain and Hirono, is a way to:

  1. acknowledge both Senators for helping defeat ACA repeal;
  2. underscore that members of Congress get better health care than most citizens;
  3. celebrate bipartisanship;
  4. make sure that Democrats as well as Senator McCain rightfully get some credit for the “no” vote that killed this round of the GOP’s assault on the ACA;
  5. emphasize that we mortals are all vulnerable to health challenges at any time;
  6. affirm the importance of charity and concern for those more vulnerable;
  7. celebrate the defeat of small mindedness and the denial of science.

Many of my friends and family members have suffered from this terrible, hydra-headed disease; both my parents died of it. According to the National Cancer Institute, ”approximately 39.6% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes (based on 2010-2012 data). In 2014, an estimated 15,780 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,960 died of the disease.” Cancer can happen to any of us, and does. And when it strikes, we, like these Senators, will need affordable, comprehensive health insurance.

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