Ross D. Franklin
FILE – In this Nov. 8, 2016, file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. waves to supporters as he arrives for his victory party prior to officially announcing his victory over Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick in Phoenix. Longtime friends and advisers of McCain say they’re not surprised by his decision in September 2017 to oppose a last-ditch Republican effort to overhaul the nation’s health care law. McCain objected to the legislation in part because Senate GOP leaders wanted a vote without holding hearings or debate. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
WASHINGTON — John McCain faced a choice that balanced friendship, party loyalty and his convictions. He made the decision some of his closest advisers expected.
Looking at the twilight of his career and a grim cancer diagnosis, the Republican senator from Arizona who prides himself on an independent streak could not be moved to go along with a last-ditch GOP push to overhaul the nation’s health care system.
Those close to him say he wrestled with the choice — the legislation was championed by his best friend in the Senate — but rarely strayed from his intention to send a message to the institution where he’s spent three decades.
That message was bipartisanship and what he cast as the integrity of the Senate process that insists on debate and often yields compromise. The call for “regular order” isn’t the stuff of campaign bumper stickers, but it has become McCain’s mission since he’s returned to Washington, to keep up his work and treatment for an often fatal brain tumor.
“If he supported this, then he guts his whole message that he’s been trying to give his…