"And I can tell you, we hope John McCain gets better very soon. Because we miss him. He is a crusty voice in Washington," Trump said Monday to a smattering of laughs before pausing and adding, "Plus, we need his vote."
McCain's absence forced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay consideration of the Republican health care plan in the Senate. The bill, which already had two Republican senators standing against it, needs every Republican vote to get through. McConnell tweeted Sunday that the Senate will work on other legislative issues and nominations next week and "will defer consideration of the Better Care Act" while McCain is recovering.
That initial vote could have come as early as Tuesday.
Trump, speaking at a "Made in America" event at the White House, added: "And he'll be back, and he will be back sooner than somebody else would be back. He will be back soon. But we need that vote."
McCain, according to his office, is home in Arizona after the blood clot was discovered during an annual physical at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix.
Though McCain's office is downplaying the minimally invasive surgery, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta said Monday that the surgery was a "signifiant operation" that could signal a recurrence of melanoma, something he was diagnosed with in 2000.
It isn't clear that McCain would have backed the Republican bill even if he was in Washington. To date, the senator has expressed skepticism about the plan.
"The revised Senate health care bill released today does not include the measures I have been advocating for on behalf of the people of Arizona," he said in a statement on Thursday.
The senator has long been a thorn in Trump's side, challenging him during the campaign and as president on a host of issues. Trump also famously said as a candidate that McCain, who was was prisoner of war in Vietnam's infamous Hanoi Hilton for more than five years, was "not a war hero."
"He is a war hero because he was captured," Trump said in 2015. "I like people that weren't captured, OK? I hate to tell you. He is a war hero because he was captured. OK, you can have -- I believe perhaps he is a war hero."
The comment was immediately rebuked by Republicans and Democrats alike, and though McCain initially declined to respond, he said he would like to see Trump "retract that statement" because of its implications about other prisoners of war.
McCain, much to the chagrin of the White House, has been direct about the swirling controversies about Trump and Russia.
"Another shoe just dropped. There'll be many more shoes that drop," McCain told CNN after reports that Trump's son, Donald Trump, Jr., met with a Russian lawyer with Kremlin ties in June 2016.
Earlier he said, "We've seen this movie before. It's reaching Watergate size and scale. This is not good for the country."