President Donald Trump has signed a defense bill honoring U.S. Sen John McCain, but did not mention McCain once by name at the Upstate New York signing event.
Trump addressed 10th Mountain Division soldiers at a Fort Drum hangar on Monday afternoon to thank the troops for their service and sign the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act. The $716 billion bill will increase pay for service members and boost spending on military equipment and weapons in fiscal 2019.
“There is no better place than right here in Fort Drum. After news of devastating cuts we’re rebuilding our military better than ever before,” Trump said.
The Commander in Chief was joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Major General Walter Piatt and Rep. Elise Stefanik, the New York Congresswoman (R-21st Congressional District) who invited Trump to Fort Drum.
Trump concluded the event with a signing of H.R. 5515, the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.
However, during his remarks, Trump never once mentioned McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has been battling brain cancer. He instead referred to it as simply the “National Defense Authorization Act” or the NDAA.
“The NDAA is the most significant investment in our military and in our war fighters in modern history and I’m very proud to be a big, big part of it,” Trump said.
“To survive and having that survival of our freedom it depends upon the mite of our military. And no enemy on earth can match the strength, courage and skill of the American Army and the American armed forces. Nobody’s even close. They never will be.”
The president has frequently clashed with McCain, starting in 2015 when he said the Arizona senator was not a war hero. McCain, a former Navy fighter pilot, was held for almost six years as a prisoner of war after his jet was shot down in the former North Vietnam.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said of his GOP rival during his presidential campaign. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
McCain later dropped his support for Trump during the presidential election and, in 2017, cast the deciding vote to defeat a Republican bill that would have repealed parts of the Affordable Care Act. He also hinted last year that he didn’t believe the medical diagnosis in Trump’s reported deferment from the Vietnam War draft due to bone spurs.
“We drafted the lowest income level of America,” he told C-SPAN in October, “and the highest income level found a doctor that would say they had a bone spur.”
Pence, who has maintained a warmer relationship with McCain, also did not mention McCain during opening remarks introducing Trump.
Trump departed Fort Drum’s Wheeler-Sack Army Air Field in Air Force One after the event for a private fundraising reception to benefit Rep. Claudia Tenney at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Utica. Follow syracuse.com for continued coverage of Trump’s visit to Upstate New York.
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