Schumer: McCain Ranks as Great as Ted Kennedy

WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) today declared Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to have joined the ranks of late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) when it comes to greatness in Congress.

The senator who was defeated by President Obama in his 2008 quest for the White House stepped in to cast the deciding vote to kill Senate Republicans' last-gasp effort to repeal Obama's signature healthcare legislation. Audible gasps arose from the Dem side of the chamber in the wee hours this morning when McCain walked forward and cast a loud "no" vote -- the 51st vote to kill a "skinny repeal" bill also opposed by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

After senators caught a few hours of sleep, Schumer held a press conference on Capitol Hill hailing the vote as "an amazing moment." Another attempts at repeal-and-replace as well as straight repeal with no immediate replacement also failed this week with even more GOP dissent.

"And the credit goes to a lot of people, but at the top of the list are the three who showed amazing courage to resist the pressure and do what's good for the country. John McCain at the top of the list," Schumer, who hugged McCain after the vote, said. "He and I have been friends for a very long time, ever since the Gang of Eight which we put together. And I have not seen a senator who speaks truth to power as strongly, as well and as frequently as John McCain. The very same courage he showed as a naval aviator in Vietnam, he showed last night and has shown time and time again. He's just a wonderful man. I treasure his friendship and just the fact of knowing him."

"I've known a few great men in the Senate. I'd put Ted Kennedy in that category and Danny Inouye. And I'd put John McCain in that category too," he added. "And certainly not to be forgotten, of equal praise are Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. They were amazing. And women are in so many instances stronger than men. They brag less about it, but they are. And last night sort of proved that."

Schumer said he hoped the vote would be "a turning point," referring back to McCain's floor speech earlier in the week in which he called for a return to regular order, putting healthcare reform through the normal committee process with hearings.

"I think at the very beginning we should stabilize the system. We should make permanent the cost-sharing which keeps people's premiums down and keeps the counties that are covered up," he said. "We should look at reinsurance. Tom Carper and Tim Kaine have a bill. Susan Collins and Bill Nelson have a bill. And that will help stabilize the insurance markets. And we should look at Claire McCaskill's proposal for the bare -- B-A- R-E -- counties that offer real opportunities for health insurance for counties -- the relatively small number of countries, almost all rural, that are not covered. That's what we should do initially. But then we should sit down and trade ideas."