PHOENIX — Less than a week after revealing he is battling brain cancer, Sen. John McCain said Monday he will return to Washington on Tuesday to take part in the health care votes that could begin that day.
In a statement released late Monday, his office said McCain "looks forward to returning to the United States Senate tomorrow to continue working on important legislation, including health care reform, the National Defense Authorization Act, and new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea.”
McCain announced last week that he had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer.
The Senate is expected to consider a procedural motion Tuesday that would begin debate on a Republican health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. GOP leaders have struggled to cobble together enough votes to open the debate and to pass any version of the proposed legislation.
McCain’s presence could bring the party closer to the 50 needed votes to at least begin that process on the Senate floor.
McCain has expressed concern about the way the GOP health plans would affect Arizona’s Medicaid program and turned to Gov. Doug Ducey for help in crafting alternatives. He also has complained about the hurried, closed-door dealing that marked the early versions of the GOP bills.
His office declined to discuss McCain’s plans throughout the day Monday, pointing instead to McCain’s social media postings. McCain tweeted about foreign hot spots in Afghanistan, Poland and Syria, making public his intent to focus on work in Washington instead of his medical issues.
McCain’s surprise announcement followed a weekend outdoors near Sedona, Ariz.
Throughout Monday, Senate Republicans offered conflicting statements about McCain appearing for the health-care vote.
Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters Monday that McCain was trying to get approval from his doctors to travel to Washington, according to The Hill. Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker told Politico he understood "it is a possibility."
Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, disagreed with his colleagues, saying, "I don't expect it."
Over the weekend, McCain's Twitter account featured a pair of pictures with his daughter, Meghan, and friend Joe Harper. Grant Woods, the former Arizona attorney general, tweeted a picture of a barbecue with the McCains.
By Monday, McCain's feed included articles about international affairs. On one about Afghanistan, McCain noted "we still have no strategy." On another, dealing with the political unrest in Poland, McCain said that country "must honor commitment to democracy" and the rule of law.
It was unclear Monday evening how McCain’s return fits into any treatment plans for glioblastoma.
Word of McCain’s return drew a swift and largely angry reaction on social media, mostly from people presuming he intends to help the Republicans pass some version of the health care plans that are expected to cut coverage for millions of Americans. For his part, McCain did not make clear what he intended to do on health care.
Glioblastoma is an aggressive brain cancer and is difficult to treat, experts say. It spreads finger-like projections into the brain.
Glioblastoma is one of several types of tumors known as glioma that start in the cells that form the structure of the brain. Glioma is the most common type of primary brain tumor, meaning tumors that begin and generally stay in the brain.
Glioblastoma is the most malignant form of glioma. Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Beau Biden, the son of former vice president Joseph Biden, both died of glioblastoma.
Michael Berens, deputy director of the Translational Genomics Research Institute who has studied glioblastoma for 30 years, said patients who get the cancer and undergo surgery, radiation and chemotherapy live on average 16 to 18 months.
Since revealing his diagnosis on July 19, McCain has said he and his family are reviewing treatment options with his medical team at Mayo Clinic. Even then, McCain said he planned to get back to work soon.
Last week, McCain tweeted, "I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support — unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I'll be back soon, so stand-by!"