By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) – The body of John McCain, who endured 5-1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and went on to become a lion of the U.S. Senate and a two-time Republican candidate for president, will lie in state on Wednesday in the Arizona state capitol.
The daylong public viewing of his casket was the start of five days of memorial tributes in Phoenix and Washington for McCain, who died of brain cancer on Saturday at his ranch in Cornville, Arizona. He was 81.
“We are privileged as a state to have called him a fellow Arizonan, and we are honored to have the opportunity to celebrate his life,” Governor Doug Ducey said on Twitter early Wednesday.
McCain parlayed his status as a Vietnam War hero into a decades-long political career. Over the past two years he has stood out as a key rival and critic of U.S. President Donald Trump. The bad blood between the two persisted after McCain’s death, with his family asking Trump not to attend his funeral and the White House waffling on how to mourn a prominent fellow Republican.
McCain will be just the third person to lie in state in the Rotunda of the Arizona statehouse over the past 40 years, organizers of the ceremony said. The two others were state Senator Marilyn Jarrett in 2006 and Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens, a Tucson resident, in 1980.
Following a Thursday memorial at a Phoenix church, McCain’s body will be flown to Washington where he will lie in state on Friday at the U.S. Capitol before a Saturday funeral at the Washington National Cathedral.
On Sunday, McCain is to be buried in a private ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he graduated as a U.S. Navy officer in 1958 before going on to become a fighter pilot.
Ducey, a Republican, has said he will wait until after McCain’s burial to name a successor.
His pick will come from McCain’s party, leaving intact the Republican 51-49 majority in the Senate. It was unclear whether any successor would be inclined or able to play the role of public foil to Trump that McCain did, most notably in July 2017 when he cast the vote that blocked a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
Arizona Republicans on Tuesday picked a candidate to succeed retiring Senator Jeff Flake, another vocal Trump critic. Their choice, U.S. Representative Martha McSally, is a staunch Trump supporter, as were her two rivals for the nomination. She will face Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in the Nov. 6 general election.
(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)