Senator Chuck Schumer, left, and Mitch McConnell watche as a wreath is placed on the casket of Senator John McCain as he lies in state in the Rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington, yesterday. He will be buried today. Andrew Harnik/POOL Via REUTERS

A bitterly divided US Congress came together yesterday to commemorate the late Senator John McCain, remembering him as a tenacious fighter for his ideals who never lost his sense of humour or his ability to inspire others.
Leaders from both parties gathered in the US Capitol Rotunda to honour McCain, on the third of five days of memorial celebrations in Arizona and Washington for the Vietnam War hero and two-time Republican presidential candidate.

Republican President Donald Trump was missing, a result of the animosity between the two men that lingered even after the Arizona senator’s death on Saturday from brain cancer.

Trump will also miss today’s service at the Washington National Cathedral, where former president Barack Obama, the Democrat who defeated McCain in 2008, and former Republican president George W Bush, who beat McCain in their party’s 2000 presidential primary, will pay tribute.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who often fought with McCain over issues such as campaign finance reform and Obama’s healthcare overhaul, praised him as a “generational leader” in the Senate.

“He would fight tooth and nail for his vision of the common good. Depending on the issue, you knew John would either be your staunchest ally or your most stubborn opponent.

“At any moment, he might be preparing an eloquent reflection on human liberty or a devastating joke, served up with his signature cackle and that John McCain glint in his eye,” he said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was sometimes on the receiving end of McCain’s “distinct brand of candour”.

“This is one of the bravest souls our nation has ever produced.”

Vice-president Mike Pence described McCain as “an American patriot”, and said Trump had asked him to be there to pay his respects. After the ceremony, the public will pass through the Rotunda for six hours to pay their respects by filing past his coffin, which was brought into the Rotunda and placed atop a pine board catafalque originally built in 1865 for president Abraham Lincoln’s casket.

The pallbearers today will include former vice-president Joe Biden and liberal actor and activist Warren Beatty, former Senator Phil Gramm and ex-Defence Secretary William Cohen. Reuters