01:30 - Source: CNN
McCain returning to Senate for critical vote

Story highlights

Sen. John McCain returns to Washington Tuesday

He is expected to cast a critical vote on health care

Washington CNN  — 

President Donald Trump welcomed Sen. John McCain back to Washington with a Tuesday morning tweet calling the Arizona Republican an “American hero.”

“So great that John McCain is coming back to vote. Brave - American hero! Thank you John,” Trump wrote.

McCain, recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, will make a dramatic return to the Senate Tuesday to cast a critical vote on health care legislation.

The President’s tweet comes just over two years after the then-presidential candidate said McCain, who was imprisoned and tortured during the Vietnam War, was not a war hero because he was captured.

“He is not a war hero,” Trump told pollster Frank Luntz, who was hosting a July 2015 question-and-answer session at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa.

“He is a war hero,” Luntz interjected.

“He is a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said, cutting him off. “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.”

Trump has since acknowledged that McCain is a hero, but refused to apologize in subsequent interviews.

Asked by ABC News the next day whether he owes McCain an apology, Trump said: “No, not at all.”

“People that fought hard and weren’t captured and went through a lot, they get no credit. Nobody even talks about them. They’re like forgotten. And I think that’s a shame, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said.

And once he became the presumptive Republican nominee, Trump, expressed no regret.

“I don’t, you know – I like not to regret anything,” Trump told radio host Don Imus in May 2016. “You do things and you say things. And what I said, frankly, is what I said. And you know, some people like what I said, if you want to know the truth. Many people that like what I said. You know after I said that, my poll numbers went up seven points.”

McCain’s office announced Monday night that he would return Tuesday – a surprise to most in Washington who expected him to miss the crucial vote and return to Washington at a later date.

McCain is expected to get GOP leadership one vote closer to beginning debate on health care legislation, which is on the verge of collapsing.

“Senator McCain looks forward to returning to the United States Senate tomorrow to continue working on important legislation, including health care reform, the National Defense Authorization Act, and new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea,” his office said in a statement.

CNN’s Lauren Fox, Manu Raju, Ashley Killough and Eugene Scott contributed to this report.