McConnell pays tribute to John McCain following Arizona visit

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26:  After answering questions from reporters, Sen. John McCain departs the U.S. Capitol for a briefing on North Korea at the White House April 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. Members of U.S. President Donald Trump's national security team held a briefing on North Korea at the White House for the entire U.S. Senate.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Washington (CNN)Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell traveled to Arizona over the weekend to visit Republican Sen. John McCain, according to a statement from McConnell's office.

"I didn't want to miss the opportunity to tell him how much his friendship meant to me. So that's why I was out there this weekend," the Kentucky Republican said in the statement on Monday.
McCain has been back in his home state recovering from treatment for brain cancer since late last year. Despite his absence from Capitol Hill, he has remained vocal in politics: Just last week he issued a statement on the nomination and testimony of Gina Haspel for head of the CIA.
McConnell's statement said his trip took him to Sedona, where he and the McCains reflected on their years of friendship.
    "We had some laughs and even reminisced about the battles; sometimes we were on the same side, and sometimes we weren't. But one thing about our colleague, John McCain—you'd rather be on his side than not," McConnell said.
    McConnell's statement noted McCain's time as a Vietnam prisoner of war, adding that the senator is admired for "the tenacity and the grit that it took to survive those five and a half years in the 'Hanoi Hilton.' " He also commended McCain for his travels, and his commitment to veterans.
    "The last few years, we sort of thought of him as the shadow Secretary of State during the Obama years as he traveled the world —sometimes on a long weekend — to some of the least desirable places to visit. I avoided those trips, but for those who took them it was a little bit like the Bataan Death March. Junkets they weren't," McConnell wrote.
    "He also was passionate in working to take better care of our veterans. No one, with the possible exception of Senator Isakson, spent more time working on veterans issues and trying to take care of them—as they richly deserved—than John McCain," the statement added.
    McConnell said he relayed to McCain that his colleagues missed his presence on Capitol Hill.
    "One thing we all know about John that remains the case today, he doesn't have a relaxed bone in his body. And he still has plenty to say about work I assure you. He misses his colleagues, he'd rather be here. And I told him we miss him too. All the great jokes and smart-alecky comments. He's a joy to be around," McConnell said.