message from Senator John McCain

The McCain Update

January 2015

Serving Arizona Constituents | Chairman of Armed Services Committee
Secure the Border First | ObamaCare Opt-Out | Veterans Suicide Prevention | ICYMI
Event Spotlight | Around Grand Canyon State 



Serving My Arizona Constituents in 2014 and Beyond

It has been my great pleasure as one of Arizona's representatives to assist Arizonans with matters involving U.S. federal agencies. In 2014, my staff handled more than 5,500 cases for Arizona residents and helped nearly 3,500 veterans worldwide. If you are experiencing a problem with a federal agency, please contact my Arizona offices. My qualified staff are ready to assist you with all matters that involve federal agencies and do not involve judicial matters.


Designation as Chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee

Earlier this month, I was extremely honored to be installed as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee for the 114th Congress. With this distinction, I now have the great privilege and responsibility of presiding over a Committee that carefully oversees the U.S. military and shapes national defense policy. As we continue to see terrorism and unrest grow around the world, the need for a strong national defense and coherent global military strategy has never been more important. As Chairman of this Committee, my top priority is to ensure that our service members stationed in Arizona and across the world have the authorities, leadership, training, equipment, and resources needed to successfully achieve their missions.  I look forward to working with all members of the Committee to address the most pressing issues for our defense and national security.

For news and updates from the Senate Armed Services Committee, please follow @SASCMajority on Twitter, and visit our website here:


Secure the Border First

I have long believed that any effort to reform our immigration system must begin by securing our vulnerable borders, which serve as main gateways for illegal crossings and drug smuggling. That is why I was proud to co-sponsor the Secure the Border First Act of 2015, common-sense legislation that would enable our law enforcement professionals to secure our border once and for all.

The bill would introduce sector-by-sector infrastructure requirements and require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to gain and maintain full situational awareness and operational control of our border, including the ability to patrol federal lands. In Arizona, the majority of land on the southern Mexican border is controlled by the government, and Border Patrol agents must go through time-consuming and unnecessary red tape to gain access.

Arizonans deserve to have a secure border. President Obama's executive actions on immigration have obviously set back important bipartisan efforts to address these issues, but that will not stop Congress from moving forward to secure the border – the required first step in any reform effort. I'll continue to make this legislation a top priority so that all Arizonans can trust that their borders are safe.


ObamaCare Opt-Out Act

Tax season has arrived, and Americans are beginning the painful, confusing, and overwhelming process of filing their annual returns. While it is hard to imagine this ritual getting any more depressing, this year many will be faced with the additional step of paying hundreds or thousands of dollars if they chose not to purchase health insurance under ObamaCare for 2014. In fact, Americans could face fines up to $2,448 per person or up to $12,240 for a family of five under the individual mandate required by the president's new health care law.

No American should be forced into the president's one-size-fits-all health care mandate. To address this issue, I introduced the ObamaCare Opt-Out Act of 2015, important legislation that would allow Americans to opt-out of the individual mandate for health insurance coverage required by ObamaCare. This bill would allow individuals to opt-out of ObamaCare and avoid the penalty by either notifying the state or the federal health care exchange, or indicating their desire to opt-out on their tax filing. According to the tax-services provider H&R Block, this would impact about 4 million uninsured Americans in 2015. I'm gratified that Arizona Congressman David Schweikert filed companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Year after year, I hear from Arizonans that their healthcare costs continue to rise while their coverage choices diminish under Obamacare. It is far past time for Americans to once again have the freedom to make their own decisions about what is best for their families. I look forward to working with members of the Arizona delegation to move this legislation forward.


Fulfilling Our Promise to Veterans

This month, I was very proud to reintroduce The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, bipartisan legislation that would enhance mental health care services for our service members who continue to battle the lasting effects of war.

This legislation, which I expect will be voted out of the Senate as soon as next Monday, honors the life of Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who committed suicide in March 2011 at the age of 28. Clay enlisted in the Marine Corps in May 2005 and deployed to Anbar Province, near Fallujah, in January 2007. He was shot in the wrist by a sniper's bullet that barely missed his head, earning him a Purple Heart. Clay recuperated at Twenty Nine Palms, CA and then graduated from Marine Corps Scout Sniper School in March 2008. He redeployed to southern Afghanistan a few weeks later. His unit returned in late October of 2008 and he was honorably discharged from the Marines in April 2009. After returning home, Clay suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for many years and struggled with inadequate care at his local VA hospital before taking his own life.

Photo of Clay Hunt courtesy of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Clay's story is one that we hear too often. According to a study to be published in the February issue of the Annals of Epidemiology, the rate of suicide among veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is approximately 50 percent higher than the rate among the general public, and a shocking 22 veterans commit suicide each day. As a nation, we have a vital responsibility to care for our veterans, and ensure that they have necessary support and assistance to conquer the invisible wounds of war.

This legislation would make important improvements to our existing suicide prevention programs, offer veterans more information about services available to them, provide incentives to attract top-rate psychiatrists to VA hospitals, and improve the exchange of training, best practices, and other resources among the VA and non-profit mental health organizations. Further, it would create a community outreach pilot program to help veterans transition from active duty service, and extend the ability for certain combat veterans to enroll in the Veterans Health Administration for one year.

We have a long way to go to reduce the rate of suicide among our nation's veterans, but I will work to pass this legislation and ensure that American heroes like Clay Hunt receive the support they need to recover.


In Case You Missed It

  • President Obama Visits Phoenix, but Not Vets: I was deeply disappointed that President Obama refused to take time on his recent trip to Phoenix to visit veterans at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, where the national scandal of mismanagement in VA health care first surfaced last spring. There is much more work to be done to restore veterans' confidence in the VA system responsible for their care, and a visit by the president would have made clear that it is a key priority.
  • More Evidence of VA Mismanagement: I was disappointed to learn about the interim results of the VA OIG investigation into the Phoenix VA Health Care System's Urology Department released this week, which suggest that veterans seeking services experienced significant delays in scheduling and receiving care – a problem I have long fought to rectify for my constituents. The interim results also underscore the urgent need to fully implement bipartisan reform legislation that was signed into law last year. It is particularly important that the VA fully implement the Choice Card provision of the law, which addresses the problem of never-ending wait-times for appointments at VA facilities and provides veterans with much-needed flexibility and choice in their healthcare.
  • Holding Corrupt VA Executives Accountable: Along with Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), I introduced the Senate version of the Increasing VA Accountability to Veterans Act of 2015, legislation that would give the VA Secretary more authority to hold corrupt executives accountable for their actions. This bill is an important step in ending the corrupt culture that led to the scandal of delayed and denied veteran care.
  • Keep the Promise Act: Senator Jeff Flake and I reintroduced the Keep the Promise Act of 2015, legislation that would prohibit the construction of any new Indian gaming operation on unincorporated land in the metro Phoenix area that is not contiguous to an existing Indian reservation. I will continue to make this legislation a priority for Arizona, and I remain open to ideas from Valley and tribal leaders on ways to resolve the differences that exist on this issue.
  • Barry M. Goldwater Statue: I joined the entire Arizona delegation to welcome the announcement that the dedication ceremony for the Barry M. Goldwater statue will take place in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol next month. Our state never had a better champion than Barry Goldwater, and we are very proud that his legacy will continue to be honored at the U.S. Capitol.
  • National School Choice Week: I joined Americans around the country to celebrate National School Choice Week this week and recognize the success of increased educational choices for parents and students in Arizona and across the nation. Arizona students have the unique opportunity to attend more than 600 charter schools, including Basis Charter Schools in Scottsdale and Tucson, ranking the number one and three charter schools in America by U.S. News & World Report. While I am proud of the success we are seeing in Arizona, more needs to be done to expand educational options for American students and ensure they have the best opportunities to succeed.
  • Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act: I introduced the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act, bipartisan legislation that would allow individuals to safely import prescription drugs from Canada, creating major savings for consumers and bringing greater competition into the pharmaceutical market. Arizonans should not have to worry about not being able to fill a prescription because they can't afford to pay for it. 
  • Awards for Victims of Fort Hood Attack: sent a letter urging Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to award the Purple Heart to service members and the Medal for Defense of Freedom to civilian employees and contractor personnel killed or wounded in the 2009 attack at Fort Hood, Texas. The FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law last month, changed the eligibility for these awards to include victims of attacks by individuals or organizations in communication with foreign terrorist organizations, and inspired or motivated by foreign terrorist organizations. Further delay is inexcusable and I will continue to press the Army to award these most deserving heroes.
  • Reforming CBP's Unmanned Aircraft System Program: This month, I introduced the Unmanned Aircraft System Improvement Act of 2015, legislation that would reform the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's mismanaged Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) program. The bill addresses concerns raised in a DHS Inspector General Report released last month that concludes the UAS program is not meeting current flight hour goals; is not utilizing the most effective available resources; and is failing to accurately determine program costs.
  • Repeal The Jones Act: It has been gratifying to return to regular Senate order and once again have the opportunity to introduce and debate amendments on important legislative issues. This month, I introduced an amendment that would repeal a provision of The Jones Act, an antiquated 1920's law, which requires that all goods shipped between waterborne ports of the U.S. be carried by vessels built in the states and owned and operated by Americans. I have long advocated for a repeal of this protectionist law, which has for too long hindered free trade, made U.S. industry less competitive and raised prices for American consumers.
  • Passing of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: I was invited by the Administration this week to travel with a U.S. delegation to Saudi Arabia to pay respects to the deceased King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud. King Abdullah was an important partner in the war on terror, and I look forward to working with the new King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, whom I visited with in Riyadh earlier this month, on strengthening the vital relationship between our two countries.
  • Russian Aggression Against Ukraine: I have continued to voice concern over the worsening crisis in Ukraine and call for the President to demonstrate America's own spirit of resolve by providing Ukraine the lethal military assistance it needs to defend itself. Sanctions and low oil prices have battered Russia's economy, but have done nothing to curb Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine. Failing to provide the Ukrainians weapons would be an unmistakable sign of weakness not only to Putin, but also to potential aggressors around the world.


Event Spotlight


I enjoyed speaking at the Arizona State Republican Convention in Tempe on January 24, and was very impressed with our state's newly elected leadership. While there, I had the opportunity to visit with supporters from Arizona's vibrant Vietnamese-American community.     


This month, I led a Congressional delegation to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel to meet with U.S. allies and discuss our common interests on global foreign policy challenges. On the trip, we enjoyed meeting with our dear friend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Neanyahu. We have no greater ally in the Middle East than Israel and continue to value our close partnership as two great democratic nations. We also participated in a moving wreath laying in memory of the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks at Yad Vashem – Israel's Holocaust museum – in Jerusalem.


Around the Grand Canyon State

  • Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase, Tucson, 1/31/15-2/15/15: For two weeks every winter, the world meets in Tucson for the international marketplace of buyers and sellers at the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase. The show attracts thousands of treasure hunters from every corner of the globe. There are displays from renowned museums and private collections along with over 250 mineral, gemstone, jewelry and fossil retail dealers. It also features free lectures and seminars.
  • Tucson Rodeo, Tucson, 2/21/15-3/1/15: Since 1925, the Tucson Rodeo Parade has grown into one of the top 25 professional rodeos in North America. The nine-day event features bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, team roping, women's barrel racing, and the world's longest non-motorized parade.
  • Lost Dutchman Days, Apache Junction, 2/26/15-3/1/15: The 51st Annual Lost Dutchman Days features three days of professional Rodeo action, a carnival that features more than 30 rides, and carnival attractions. The event also includes a parade that attracts thousands of spectators, as well as a Rodeo Dance for the whole family. Continuous music daily, food and vendor booths entertain visitors for the entire weekend.