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John McCain honored at U.S. Capitol ceremony

The moving ceremony was just the latest in a week’s worth of events to honor the senator, former prisoner of war and two-time presidential candidate.
by Adam Edelman /  / Updated 

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Sen. John McCain was honored at a moving ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Friday, where top congressional leaders, as well as Vice President Mike Pence, spoke.

The six-term Republican senator from Arizona, who passed away last weekend after a battle with brain cancer, lay in state under the U.S. Capitol Rotunda — only the 31st person to ever receive that incredible honor — for a ceremony and public visitation Friday as lawmakers paid their respects.

Moments before the morning ceremony began, rain poured down as U.S. service members escorted McCain’s flag-draped casket up the Capitol steps, as senators and members of Congress — in addition to McCain's widow, Cindy, his children, and his 106-year-old mother, Roberta — awaited his arrival.

Pence, speaking last, praised McCain as an “American patriot” who “served a cause greater than himself.”

"Let me say to all those gathered and his beloved family, on behalf of a grateful nation, we will ever remember that John McCain served his country, and John McCain served his country honorably," Pence said.

"In every generation, there are those who put country first, who prize service ahead of self, who summon idealism," Pence said. "John McCain was such a man."

Earlier, after a brief invocation by the House chaplain, House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke, lauding his former colleague and friend.

"We celebrate six decades of devotion to the American idea and the cause of human freedom," McConnell said. "Generations of Americans will continue to marvel at the man who lies before us."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who addressed the group next, called McCain "one of the bravest souls our nation has ever produced."

"However you choose to do your part, I hope you choose to do it the way he did," Ryan said.

Ryan added that, "We have this beautiful thing, the chance to do for this man what he did for us, to stand up, to stand up and embrace the cause of his life."

"No one of us can fulfill this charge but all of us sure can try," he said. "Because all of this, all of this, it’s worth fighting for."

Later, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joined McConnell, Ryan and Pence in laying wreathes next to McCain's casket.

Several members of President Donald Trump's administration attended the ceremony, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton.

Notably absent, however, was Trump himself, who feuded fiercely and frequently with McCain over the last three years. McCain had told friends earlier this year that he didn't want Trump at his funeral ceremonies, and the president was not scheduled to attend any of the Washington-area services.

The ceremony was just the latest in a week’s worth of them for the statesman, former prisoner of war and two-time presidential candidate.

The day before, in Phoenix, McCain was eulogized as a “true American hero” at a crowded church service for the maverick politician that ended with the playing of Sinatra’s “My Way.”

And on Saturday, a procession is scheduled to pause at the Vietnam Memorial before a service at the Washington National Cathedral. Burial at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, is scheduled to take place Sunday.

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