Tribune Washington Bureau
Posted with permission from Tribune Content Agency

WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain is back, returning to Washington with a message for his colleagues in the age of President Donald Trump.

McCain picked up Friday where he left off, before going home to Arizona to begin cancer treatment, insistent as ever that Congress must exercise its role as a check on executive power, even if that means going against the leader of his own Republican Party.

"Congress must govern with a president who has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct," McCain wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post.

"We must respect his authority and constitutional responsibilities. We must, where we can, cooperate with him. But we are not his subordinates. We don't answer to him. We answer to the American people," McCain went on.

"We must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check on his power. And we should value our identity as members of Congress more than our partisan affiliation."

Congress resumes next week after a long summer recess, and McCain's comments, coming days after his 81st birthday, serve as a warning notice that the six-term senator shows no signs of retreating as he battles brain cancer.

More likely, McCain is positioning himself as a leading Republican voice at a time when others have been reluctant to criticize the president, fearful of Trump's public rebukes on Twitter or elsewhere.

McCain has rarely been timid, and in many ways, he is continuing the course set in July when he stunned Washington with his vote against the health care bill. At the time, he urged senators in a piercing floor speech to quit listening to the "bombastic loudmouths" on partisan talk radio and online, and get to work by returning to the regular congressional order of committee hearings and votes to address the nation's concerns, regardless of party.