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Sun 26 Aug 2018 10:45 AM

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US senator John McCain dies aged 81

McCain chose to discontinue medical care on August 24 after a year of treatment failed to prevent his brain cancer from worsening

US senator John McCain dies aged 81
US Senator John McCain speaks during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa on the shores of the Dead Sea 55 kms southeast of the Jordanian capital Amman on May 25 2013 AFP PHOTOSTR Photo credit should read STRAFPGetty Images

John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who was a senior voice on defense and foreign policy in the US Senate has died aged 81.

McCain died at 4:28 p.m. on Saturday, his office said in an emailed statement. His wife Cindy and his family were with the senator when he passed away at his home in Arizona.

In July 2017, McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. One year of treatment failed to prevent his condition from worsening and on August 24 his family announced that he had chosen to discontinue medical care.

The onetime Navy pilot was North Vietnam’s most prominent prisoner of war. After returning from five and a half years of captivity, McCain began a congressional career of more than three decades that made him a force in national politics. He ran for president in 2000 and 2008, winning the Republican nomination in his second campaign but losing to Democrat Barack Obama.

Tributes immediately flowed for McCain, with President Donald Trump tweeting: “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!”

The Arizona Republican served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and was frequently a sharp critic of President Trump. A defense hawk who sought increased military spending and joined fellow Republicans in opposing abortion and other controversial matters, McCain infuriated many in his party by violating GOP orthodoxy on other issues. In July 2017, he joined two other Republicans in voting with Democrats to kill a GOP-only effort to repeal Obama’s health-care law, the Affordable Care Act.

McCain had returned to the Capitol following his brain-cancer diagnosis to vote on the health-care bill. In a dramatic speech on the Senate floor days before the final vote, he urged colleagues to curb hyper-partisanship and criticised GOP leaders for drafting their bill in secret and without Democratic input.

McCain also broke with most Republicans earlier by opposing President George W. Bush’s tax cuts, backing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and co-authoring legislation to limit campaign spending.

The senator occasionally tangled with Trump, blasting the president’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal as a “serious mistake” and insisting that Congress must investigate Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump mocked McCain’s prisoner of war experience. “He was a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said during the 2016 campaign. “I like people who weren’t captured.”

In early 2017, McCain called for spending $430 billion more on defense above existing levels over five years.

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