February 12th, 2008
05:00 PM ET
7 years ago

Candidates head back to the Hill - briefly

WASHINGTON (CNN) – On the day that voters in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. went to the polls, two of the three senators who are running for president made rare visits to Capitol Hill where they cast a series of votes on a controversial bill authorizing the surveillance of suspected terrorists.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and his potential rival in the general election Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, were on the senate floor for several hours and bumped into each other at one point and exchanged smiles, a hand shake and a brief “friendly” conversation, according to McCain.

Both also spent a lot of time catching up one-on-one with colleagues. For Obama, it was a chance to speak directly with Democratic senators who are also designated super delegates - those key party officials who may ultimately decide who wins the nomination.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, skipped that opportunity – and the votes on the warrant-less wiretap legislation – as she spent much of the day at her campaign headquarters in nearby suburban Virginia where she conducted satellite interviews with journalists in Texas and Ohio, two critical upcoming primary states.

A spokesman later said Sen. Clinton was “unable to vote” but strongly opposes the legislation which is backed by the Bush administration.

Later, McCain won a standing ovation from his colleagues at a closed-door weekly lunch of Senate Republicans. Famously superstitious, McCain knocked on the wooden podium when he stood to speak.

“He stressed the importance of making sure that we’ve got a unified front going into the fall and he’s going to be working hard on that,” said Sen. John Thune, R-SD, who attended the lunch.

Thune described McCain as “restrained” and said the Arizona senator realizes, “we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”

At the lunch, Sen. Ted Stevens, who has had battled with McCain over pork-barrel spending, approached the Arizona senator and said he would support him for president.

Stevens said despite their battles he has great respect for what McCain went through as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. “It’s hard to hate a person like that,” Stevens said.

Obama may have left the campaign trail for a few hours but didn’t seem to lose the campaign spirit. He made a point of shaking hands with the employees who staff the Senate floor - all likely voters in the local primary - and at one point buttonholed Virginia’s Democratic Sen. Jim Webb to ask if he had gone to the polls yet.

–CNN's Ted Barrett, Dana Bash, Deirdre Walsh, Kate Bolduan, and Peter Hamby

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Charlotte

    Obama finally shows up to vote, rubbing ELBOWS no doubt. How about you Obama supporters explaining where Obama was when the important vote on Iran took place? In fact explain his voting record in the state senate as well. He has missed 1/3 of all votes in the US SENATE. How can he claim to be the best choice, encourage us all to be sure and vote, when he is absent a 1/3 of the time?

    February 12, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  2. Veronica Ward

    "The disparity of feeling between these candidates is akin to that which separates a painting of a sunrise and the thing itself. From the former you get a sense of grandeur, a thin notion of possibility. From the latter, we awake, warmed and stirred to rise in response."....this says it all....i will vote for hillary if she is the nominee.....but, i'd rather be inspired......

    February 12, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  3. Pat Shepard

    Unable to vote? Do we want a president like that?

    "I strongly oppose this, but care about my own political victories more than doing my job."

    *sigh* Way to go, Hillary!

    February 12, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  4. RJB2

    A house full of waste

    It does not matter who gets in the White House

    Until we get rid of "EVERYONE" in the House and Senate

    This country will still go down the toilet

    REMEMBER...DO NOT RE-ELECT ANYONE WHO IS IN OFFICE NOW

    After that... then we will have real change...and a chance

    February 12, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  5. Randy - Denver

    Oh I hear how Ms. Clinton is out there doing for all us people and now I read that she cannot even come to DC (Remember they are voting in DC also today Ms. Clinton I know they are a small block and therefore don't count) to vote on a bill regarding WARRANTLESS WIRE TAPPING!! She is too busy campaigning in TEXAS even though she is close by in Virginia, guess it was too hard for her to come over to the Capital and do the job the citizens of NY are paying her to do.

    This is what we mean when we say she is too self involved her campaign is more important than your cival liberties!

    February 12, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  6. Jules

    I just have to say, that although I understand that there is a great deal at stake in this election, the process is entirely too long ad absurdly expensive. The candidates have been forced to campaign and stump nonstop and this keeps them from their duties in the Senate. At least McCain and Obama put that aside to vote on this important legislation today. It's time we went to a national primary day and public financing. Senator Clinton should have been there. This is her responsibility to the people of New York.

    February 12, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  7. OBAMA YES CLINTON NO

    I CHALLENGE ANYONE WHO IS LEANING TOWARD CLINTON TO GO LISTEN TO SENATOR OBAMA BEFORE YOU VOTE.
    1. HE CAN UNIFY THIS COUNTRY IN THE CONGRESS AND THROUGHOUT AMERICA . HE GETS US ALL, WHITE, LATINO, AFRICAN AMERICAN, ASIAN AMERICAN, EUROAMERICANS.
    HILLARY IS EXTREMELY POLARIZING. MANY MANY PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE HER AND SHE WILL NEVER UNITE CONGRESS.

    2.OBAMA IS INTELLIGENT AND WILL SURROUND HIMSELF WITH ADVISORS AS SMART AS HE IS. HIS GIFT IS THAT HE LISTENS TO OTHERS AND CONSIDERS CAREFULLY THEIR IDEAS
    HILLARY LISTENS TO NO ONE. ITS HER WAY OR THE HIGHWAY.

    3. OBAMA IS EXPERIENCED WITH 8 YEARS IN THE ILLINOIS SENATE AND 5 YEARS IN THE US SENATE
    HILLARY WAS FIRST LADY AND IS A JUNIOR SENATOR FROM NEW YORK

    4. OBAMAS HEALTH CARE PLAN IS BETTER THAN HILLARY'S. THERE JUST IS NOT ENOUGH MONEY OUT THERE TO GIVE EVERYONE EVERYTHING AND UNDER HILLARY'S PLAN, THE GOVERNMENT WILL DECIDE WHAT SERVICES YOU AND I WILL NOT GET.

    5. WHO IS VOTING FOR OBAMA? MEN, YOUNG AND MIDDLE AGED ADULTS WHO KEEP UP WITH THE POLITICAL ISSUES OF TODAY, WHITES, AFRICAN AMERICANS, LATINOS, WOMEN ....PEOPLE WHO STUDY THE ISSUES AND UNDERSTAND GOVERNMENT. LISTEN TO THESE PEOPLE. IF YOU ARE VOTING ON ONE ISSUE GO AND GET YOUR INFORMATION. STUDY, ASK QUESTIONS. WHEN YOU DO YOU WILL VOTE FOR OBAMA

    6. HE WILL BEAT MCCAIN. HILLARY WILL NOT. MANY DEMS WILL VOTE MCCAIN RATHER THAN VOTE FOR HILLARY CLINTON. CAN WE AFFORD THIS?

    5.

    February 12, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  8. Ennis, LA

    Sen. McCain was a prisoner in a flop war we lost. I'd keep quiet about

    this if I were Sen. Stevens.

    February 12, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  9. Veronica Ward

    Hillary didn't show up to vote? OH MY GOODNESS!!

    How can she say that Obama only voted "Present" in the seante but then turn around and NOT VOTE AT ALL. All of the senators were in Washington, so that's no excuse. She had Bill there on the stump for her, so why couldn't she take the time out to vote?

    She's a hypocrite!

    GO OBAMA!

    February 12, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  10. Lee

    Was Obama there to vote "present" too funny I cant believe these lemmings are following this guy. They must have something missing in their personal lives.

    February 12, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  11. arleenbenson

    Oh, do you mean the Super Delegates that won't mean anything?? The ones Obama is trying to win support from? Hmmm – sounds to me Kennedy is having a little too much influence on the inexperienced one from Illinois.

    February 12, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  12. Joe

    For someone who constantly rips on Barrack for missing votes in the legislature, Hillary sure picked an odd time to miss one herself. This surveillance bill is just another opportunity for Bush to circumvent the Constitution. I cannot wait for this guy to leave office.

    February 12, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  13. ed

    wasn't it hillary who first complained about mccain not showing up to vote for the economic stimulus package? Now, she herself doesn't bother to show up and vote on the warrantless wiretap legislation.? Hahaha this is just too funny.

    February 12, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  14. Doug

    Hmm...Hillary not showing up but she has time to fly to Texas to try to gain votes that will occur in three weeks! Interesting move from a candidate who was criticizing Obama for voting "present" in the past.

    February 12, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  15. yns

    I have been watching the debates and listening to what the candidates have to say. I have also been looking at what they have done for and what they have to offer our country. To me, Hillary is the one. She has had so much substance to what she has to offer. She cares about everyone, not just a few. She has come across party lines and cosponsored bills. She had made some accomplishments while in Congress. Right now the media is in awe with an "inspirer". I am not looking for inspiration ~ I am looking for my country that has been run into the mud by the current adminstration and needs to be reestablished as a great country that it once was. Hillary is the peson who can do that! I won't vote for a person who and I quote "doesn't know much about the economy". If she is not the democratic nominee, then I will have to consider my options or lack thereof.

    February 12, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  16. Jim from SC

    Governor Mike Huckabee from Hope Arkansas; keep hope alive, nobody ever lost sleep dreaming of prosperity.

    There are so many conservative Republicans at debilitating odds with McCain, he is vastly becoming un-electable.

    The Republican Senators paid respect to McCain today because they don't have a choice, he's one of them. What they need to remember is that an election is around the corner and their respective gratitude for their native son may soon turn to rehabilitating their own respective seats. Be careful for what you ask for, you might get it. Advise we can all live with.

    "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!"
    Benjamin Franklin

    February 12, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |