[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/18/art.mccainreelect.gi.jpg caption="McCain is seeking a higher-profile role."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Bump into John McCain in a Capitol hallway these days, and you’re lucky if you get anything beyond a polite hello. Ask him a question on any policy or political issue, and he will almost always decline comment, and keep moving.
But the former Republican presidential nominee is not planning to keep a low profile for long.
CNN has learned that McCain may get seats on an unusually high number of key Senate committees, so that he can engage on a wide range of high-profile issues before Congress, and his formal rival in the White House.
“He wants to be a player,” McCain’s good friend, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, told CNN in a phone conversation.
“He feels an obligation to the people of Arizona and the rest of the country to use his time in the Senate to be productive.”
For example, three sources close to McCain say he is hoping to secure a seat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in order to work with its Democratic chairman, Ted Kennedy, on health care reform.
McCain has worked across the aisle with Kennedy on several controversial issues, like immigration reform and a patients’ bill of rights. But he also differed sharply with Barack Obama during the campaign on how to reform the country’s health care system. McCain wanted to move away from employer based health care, and opposed the Obama plan to expand on the current system.
Sources also say McCain is hoping to sit on the Homeland Security Committee, chaired by his good friend Joe Lieberman, and the Energy Committee, so that he can work closely with the Obama administration on a high priority area where they do have common ground: fighting global warming.
A Senate GOP leadership source tells CNN that their final committee assignments will not be complete until Wednesday or Thursday, and it is still not clear if McCain will get seats on these committees.
However the GOP source insists “the more things McCain wants to be involved in, the better for us.”
McCain has already been quietly engaged with the Obama team on issues relating to his most high profile Senate role –- ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
McCain sources say that he had concerns about Dennis Blair as Director of National Intelligence, and sent a list of detailed questions for Blair to answer before the Obama team formally announced his nomination.