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McCain still steering Armed Services Committee from Arizona

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. speaks on the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 25, 2017. Just weeks after a diagnosis of aggressive brain cancer, McCain was poised to cast the tiebreaker vote on the GOP's health care bill, in what was meant to undo President Barack Obama's signature health care law. McCain paused for a moment, and then gave the measure a thumbs-down.

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By PATRICK KELLEY | CQ-Roll Call (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 24, 2018

WASHINGTON — Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain is still firmly in charge of the Armed Services Committee’s proceedings despite his physical absence from the nation’s capital.

Since December, McCain has been in his home state of Arizona undergoing physical therapy and rehabilitation as he battles brain cancer. In McCain’s absence, the committee’s No. 2 Republican, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, has led committee hearings.

“He’s calling the shots, and I’m showing up,” Inhofe said of McCain in an interview for C-SPAN’s Newsmakers. “Yes, I’m chairing the meetings, but we’re chairing the meetings … consistent with what John feels we should be doing. In fact, actually deciding on what hearings we’re having, that’s a decision that’s coming out of the chairman, who is John McCain.”

Inhofe has chaired two full committee hearings in McCain’s absence, one in December on U.S. policy and strategy in the Middle East and a confirmation hearing last week for two Pentagon acquisition officials.

Senate Armed Services hearings relating to Pentagon acquisition have typically been lively with McCain at the helm, as he has been consistently critical of cost overruns and delayed defense programs.

“John McCain has always been a tiger on doing something about acquisition,” Inhofe said.

Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, believes the nominees got off easy.

“If Senator McCain were here, he’d be talking about accountability. He’s always looking for who he can fire,” King said.

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