Senator John McCain volunteered to campaign for Senator Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican facing a challenge from fellow Republican Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president.
“I have grown to admire and respect Mike Enzi -- I’ll tell you, he’s one of these solid guys,” McCain, 76, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “I know nothing that Mike Enzi would do that didn’t deserve re-election.”
The Arizona Republican said he would never tell anyone including Cheney, 46, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s eldest daughter, they shouldn’t run for office. Yet he called Enzi, 69 and seeking his fourth Senate term, “the epitome of a workhorse,” with expertise in health care and tax issues that has impressed Republicans across the board.
“I don’t know a person in our conference that doesn’t admire, respect, and have great affection for” Enzi, McCain said.
He also said he has developed a good working rapport with President Barack Obama, with whom he sometimes has had a chilly relationship since they faced off in the 2008 presidential race. He called Obama, 51, “an honorable man” who has changed his approach to governing as he looks toward his legacy.
“It’s one of mutual respect,” McCain said of his relationship with the president. He said Obama in his second term “has taken a different attitude than when he came to the presidency with 60 votes in the Senate, overwhelming majority in the House, where he really didn’t have to worry about Republicans.”
Democrats lost their House majority in the 2010 election and they currently control the Senate with 54 votes.
McCain took issue with Obama and his team for not pursuing a tougher stance in dealing with Russia, including taking action against human-rights abuses there and promising to bolster missile defense systems.
“We ought to be speaking up more,” McCain said. He proposed expanding a law enacted in 2012, known as the Magnitsky Act. That measure aimed to punish Russian officials thought to be responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a tax and legal adviser who died in 2009 in a Russian prison after investigating a $230 million tax fraud by authorites.
McCain, one of four Republican architects of a sweeping immigration measure the Senate passed last month, said businesses, labor and religious groups must lean on House Republicans to take action on the issue.
Supporters must appeal to their elected representatives: “Please, members of Congress, pass a bill,” he said. Otherwise, if the House fails to act and the measure dies, McCain said, the consequences for the Republican Party are “terrible.”
McCain also said he wants to be involved in bipartisan negotiations to reach a budget compromise that will halt steep across-the-board cuts imposed earlier this year, arguing it will take both changes to entitlement programs and higher government revenue to accomplish such a deal.
“We have to, again, get together and have negotiations with the White House,” McCain said. “I’m confident that we can, because it’s devastating,” he added, referring to the sequestration cuts.
Even with their rocky history, McCain has inched closer to the president in recent months. He has met with Obama at the White House on immigration, worked with Vice President Joe Biden on a deal to avert a Senate rules showdown that allowed seven of the president’s nominees confirmation votes, and has been a player in continuing budget talks.
McCain’s vow to campaign for Enzi illustrates the degree to which Cheney’s announcement this week -- which stunned and perplexed some Republicans -- has united the poles of the party behind the incumbent. The show of support from McCain, known as a maverick and maker of bipartisan deals, comes just days after Tea Party favorite Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said he would back Enzi in in Wyoming’s August 2014 primary.