McCain Makes A Final Return to Washington For Rare Honors

The flag-draped casket of Sen. John McCain arrives inside the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Friday.
The flag-draped casket of Sen. John McCain arrives inside the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Friday.
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The late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has returned to the U.S. Capitol one last time on Friday to lie in state in the rotunda, where only 30 other people have lain since the practice began in 1852.

The Arizona Republican died Saturday at 81 and, after a funeral service in Phoenix on Thursday, his remains were transported to Washington, D.C. His casket was be positioned in the ornate hall, where lawmakers from both parties, top administration officials, military leaders and members of the public will line up to pay their respects following the morning memorial service. It will lie on top of the catafalque, the platform constructed for President Abraham Lincoln's casket, that has been used for all of the ceremonies in the rotunda since his memorial service.

About 15,000 showed up to mourn McCain at a similar service at the Arizona state capitol Wednesday.

President Trump will not make the short trip down Pennsylvania Avenue to participate in the ceremony marking the end of McCain's decades-long career in public service. His tense relationship with McCain continued even after the senator's death; it took several hours for Trump to issue a proclamation lowering flags at federal buildings to half-staff until McCain's interment.

Mark Salter, a longtime friend of McCain's, told NPR's Rachel Martin on Morning Edition that McCain understood there was a shift in the nation's political atmosphere, particularly under Trump's presidency.

"He spent much of the last year of his life trying to push back on that and explain this country isn't a country of land, blood and soil, but a nation founded on ideals, and those ideals have made us prosperous and powerful."

Vice President Pence will make remarks at the service in the Capitol, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Then Pence, McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Ryan will present wreaths to represent the administration, Senate and the House.

The last person to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol was Hawaii Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye in December 2012, who, like McCain, was a war hero, having served in World War II. He was also the second-longest-serving senator in history.

Earlier this year, evangelist Billy Graham was "lain in honor" at the Capitol, a similar privilege allowed for citizens who are not military or government officials.

On Saturday morning, a motorcade will bring McCain's casket to the Washington National Cathedral for a memorial service. On the way, his widow, Cindy, will stop at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to present a wreath to remember all those who died in that war.

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