John McCain's medical problems are Mitch McConnell's political woes

The news which greeted me this morning about Senator John McCain (R-AZ) wasn’t good. I hope all of you, regardless of political leanings, will join in sending your thoughts and prayers his way after he was taken to the Mayo Clinic for surgery yesterday. NBC News has a minimal amount of detail (not that his medical records are anyone’s business but his own) and they paint a fairly hopeful picture, but this is obviously not something to be passed off as trivial.

McCain, 80, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will be recovering in Arizona next week, his office said in a statement.

The Mayo Clinic said surgeons used a minimally invasive craniotomy to remove the blood clot.

“Senator McCain received excellent treatment at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, and appreciates the tremendous professionalism and care by its doctors and staff. He is in good spirits and recovering comfortably at home with his family,” McCain’s office said.

First of all, any time you’re performing surgery on an 80 year old patient, it’s not minor. And while I’m confident that the Senator is getting some of the best care possible at the Mayo Clinic, the description of what was done makes it clear that this was far more than a case of someone stubbing their toe. I suppose the phrase “minimally invasive” is accurate in a relative sense, but if you look up the definition of “craniotomy” (which I had to do) you’ll find that it literally involves drilling a hole in the person’s skull.

The procedure has raised some other questions as well, though we should keep in mind that the following is entirely in the realm of speculation. There’s already some chatter going on in the background about what the follow-on tests are which will be keeping McCain off the playing field for the next week. The clinic stated that they removed a 5 cm blood clot from “above his left eye socket.” They went on to say that, “Once the pathology information is available, further care will be discussed between doctors and the family.” If they were removing a blood clot, why are they doing pathology tests? At least some medical experts don’t view that as typical procedure with blood clots. And “above the eye socket” was a rather odd phrase, wasn’t it? I certainly hope that he’s okay and experiences a quick and full recovery, but it just doesn’t sound all that minor.

Meanwhile, as we keep in mind that Senator McCain’s health is the number one item of concern, you can’t ignore the political realities here either. The health care vote was allegedly going to happen this week, but with two Republicans (Susan Collins and Rand Paul) already in the “No” camp, Mitch McConnell can’t afford to lose a single vote. With John McCain recovering in Arizona, that’s not going to happen now. (Associated Press)

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday he will delay consideration of health care legislation in the Senate, after Sen. John McCain’s announced absence following surgery left Republicans short of votes on their marquee legislation…

With McConnell’s health care legislation already hanging by a thread in the Senate with no votes to spare, McCain’s absence meant it would become impossible for the majority leader to round up the votes needed to move forward with the bill next week as planned.

The idea of which date a particular Senate vote is held on pales in comparison to someone having a doctor drilling a hole in their skull, but this will certainly present an additional challenge to the Majority Leader. It’s pretty much a miracle if he’d actually rounded up the votes needed for this health care proposal, but the longer everyone is left cooling their heels the more time there will be for the forces opposed to the measure to bring pressure on other wavering members.

While McCain rightly focuses on his recovery, Mitch McConnell is going to have to keep herding cats for even longer. We can all hope for a full recovery in terms of John McCain’s health situation, but the prognosis for the Senate health care bill may be turning sour.