WASHINGTON — In the first Senate session since Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) death, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) had fighting words for anyone who would speak ill of his late colleague.
“I don’t know what’s going to be said the next few days about John McCain by whomever … I don’t know what’s going to be done,” Isakson said.
“But anybody who in any way tarnishes the legacy of John McCain deserves a whippin’,” the George lawmaker added. “‘Cause most of the ones who would do the wrong thing by John McCain didn’t have the guts to do the right thing when it was their turn. I would say to the president or anybody in the world, it’s time to pause and say this was a great man. He gave everything for us. We owe him nothing less than the respect that he earned.”
Isakson and fellow Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R), though, are trying to pump the brakes on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) bill to rename the Russell Senate Office Building after McCain. The building is currently named for late segregationist Sen. Richard Russell Jr. (D-Ga.). “It’s time that we recognize that as times change, so do our heroes,” Schumer said.
“This is a man who made tremendous contributions,” Perdue said of Russell. “In hindsight, today we can say he was wrong on any issue, but I think you’ve got to measure that in the full picture of his contributions, just like John McCain. I think that’s why I think we ought to consider what is the right way to honor John’s legacy.”
McCain’s Senate desk was draped in a black cloth today. On top sat a simple vase of white roses.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) fought back tears as he spoke on the Senate floor about McCain. “Our politics did not match, I could offer him nothing — and yet, he befriended me,” Whitehouse said.
Whitehouse will be one of the pallbearers at McCain’s funeral Saturday at the National Cathedral in D.C. Other pallbearers include actor Warren Beatty, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), McCain’s 2008 campaign finance director Carla Eudy, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), speechwriter Mark Salter, FedEx founder Fred Smith, and Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition leader who has survived two poisonings.
“John McCain has fought his last battles and cast his final votes. But the nation he loved is still not done with him yet. This week will be dedicated to remembering him,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “On Friday, he will lie in state here in the Capitol, like other American heroes before him. As the days turn to weeks, I know we’re all eager to come together and collaborate on ways we can continue to honor his memory.”