Politics

Senate Should Honor John McCain By Getting Tougher on Russia, Says Graham

Comments on next steps followed emotional floor tribute to his dear friend

Sen. Lindsey Graham, seen here embracing Sen. John McCain at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York, spoke Tuesday afternoon about his late friend and mentor. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

After a tear-filled floor speech, Sen. Lindsey Graham said one of the first things the Senate should do to honor the legacy of his late dear friend John McCain would be to pass new sanctions against Russia.

Graham, a South Carolina Republican, pointed to the enthusiastic response that Russian state television had to McCain’s passing.

But he said that there are Republican senators prepared to try to step into McCain’s shoes when it comes to promoting democracy and America’s role in the world.

“I think his greatest legacy will be how he engaged the world from an American point of view that he always put our values on display,” he told reporters.

Watch: Lindsey Graham’s Tearful Tribute to John McCain

Graham cited as examples Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, as well as Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

Sullivan succeeded McCain as chairman of board of the International Republican Institute in early August.

“Corey Gardner,” Graham said. “He wants to call Russia a terrorist state, and John said, ‘Even I wouldn’t do that.’”

The Colorado Republican has sponsored legislation that would require the State Department to make a determination that could do just that.

Asked by reporters what the Senate should do to appropriately honor the departed Armed Services chairman, Graham said, “Number one, give him a good sendoff, take up the Russian sanctions bill. They’re not getting better.”

Graham has sponsored legislation with Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey that Graham previously called a “sanctions bill from hell” against Russia.

Graham also said lawmakers should renew the, “focus on protecting the 2018 election,” and that he would be working to convince President Donald Trump to not abandon U.S. involvement on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

He said he hadn’t thought through what location on Capitol Hill might be the right one to name in McCain’s memory, though he wanted to get the view of Cindy McCain and members of the late senator’s family before making any commitments.

Graham did joke about possibly naming the Pentagon in honor of McCain, citing all of the late senator’s arguments with the Department of Defense bureaucracy about wasteful spending.

Graham was briefly delayed in getting up to the third floor of the Capitol building to meet with reporters because he was on the phone with Cindy McCain after finishing his floor speech, which took the form of an after-action report on the senator’s life and career.

He tried to be as lighthearted as possible about his late friend.

“A few dumb jokes told over and over actually become funny,” Graham said on the floor before recalling a number of McCain’s used and abused quips: even the ones that had about as much of a chance of being funny as a snowball in Gila Bend, Arizona.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.