GOP senator suggests John McCain's brain cancer 'might have factored' in his healthcare vote

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin stunned a local radio host Wednesday when he suggested that Sen. John McCain's recent diagnosis of brain cancer may have been a factor in his vote on the GOP healthcare bill.

According to CNN's Andrew Kaczynski, Johnson told a Chicago talk-radio station that House Speaker Paul Ryan had guaranteed a key stipulation for McCain: that the final iteration of the Republican healthcare bill would go to a conference committee and not become law.

Despite this assurance, Johnson said, McCain still voted against the so-called skinny repeal legislation, effectively ending the bid to repeal and replace Obamacare for now.

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McCain votes no on Obamacare 'skinny' repeal
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 27: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) holds a news conference with fellow GOP senators to say they would not support a 'Skinny Repeal' of health care at the U.S. Capitol July 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Republican senators said they would not support any legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare unless it was guaranteed to go to conference with the House of Representatives. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 27: (L-R) Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) hold a news conference to say they would not support a 'Skinny Repeal' of health care at the U.S. Capitol July 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Republican senators said they would not support any legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare unless it was guaranteed to go to conference with the House of Representatives. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) speaks with reporters after voting against the "skinny repeal" health care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 28, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 27: Sen John McCain (R-AZ) leaves the Senate Chamber after a vote on a stripped-down, or 'Skinny Repeal,' version of Obamacare reform on July 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. McCain was one of three Republican Senators to vote against the measure. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) speaks during a press conference about his resistance to the so-called "Skinny Repeal" of the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) leaves the the Senate chamber at the U.S. Capitol after voting on the GOP 'Skinny Repeal' health care bill on July 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. Three Senate Republicans voted no to block a stripped-down, or 'Skinny Repeal,' version of Obamacare reform. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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"Again, 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.

"Really?" replied one of the radio hosts, saying McCain recovered from surgery on a blood clot near the tumor and "flew all the way out to Washington DC."

"You really think that played a factor in his judgment call?" the host asked.

"Again, I don't want to speak for any senator," Johnson said. "I really thought John was going to vote 'yes' and send that to conference at 10:30 at night and by about 1:00, 1:30, he voted no. So you'd have to talk to John about what was on his mind."

A spokesperson for Johnson did not immediately return a request for further comment. In a statement, a McCain spokesman said it was "bizarre and deeply unfortunate" that Johnson would question McCain's judgment.

"Senator McCain has been very open and clear about the reasons for his vote," the statement said.

McCain was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer in July after having brain surgery in Arizona to remove a blood clot above his left eye. Less than a week after the diagnosis — and before starting treatment — he returned to Washington to vote on the bill.

At the time of his surgery, his doctors called his underlying health "excellent," and McCain was well enough to deliver a speech on Tuesday, as well as participate in a press conference criticizing the healthcare bill. Following his vote, he gave detailed statements about his decision to vote "no."

Lydia Ramsey contributed reporting.

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