Sen. John McCain gave a stirring speech on the floor of the Senate Tuesday, chiding his colleagues for reverting to tribalism, placing winning before doing good, relying on the parliamentary rules to push through actions and legislation with one-sided support.

It was a powerful oratory given by a man who has spent 30 years in the Senate and who in recent days learned he has aggressive brain cancer. If there was ever a time to make a stand, this was it.

But Sen. McCain did not. Instead of living up to his own words that were still hanging in the air, he voted with almost every other Republican to move forward on legislation that would blast a hole in the nation’s health-care system and leave millions of Americans without coverage.

The latest version hasn’t been released and it hasn’t been analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, so we don’t know how many millions of people it would leave uninsured, how much it would cost or the details of how it would affect the millions Americans with the pre-existing conditions of everything from high cholesterol to heart failure. It’s been crafted by only Republicans, it’s changing rapidly and the full details aren’t public.

The gap between what Sen. McCain says and how he votes isn’t new. But this vote has special meaning: He is a powerful and wealthy senator with a history of skin cancer – a pre-existing condition – who has brain cancer but who would not do his part to keep his fellow Republicans from leaving millions of Americans without attainable health insurance.

McCain could have seized the opportunity to do the right thing by his constituents, the American public, the Senate. He could have been a leader. Instead, he, again, chose his party over his people.

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