This morning, flags at the White House were raised back to full staff after being lowered Saturday evening upon the announcement of Senator John McCain’s passing, according to CBS. Flags at the Capitol, where McCain served in the Senate for 30 years, and elsewhere in DC remain at half staff.
According to an announcement from Chuck Schumer’s spokesman via Twitter, Senator Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell have asked the Department of Defense to “provide necessary support so that U.S. flags on all government buildings remain at half mast through sunset on the day of Senator McCain’s interment.”
The decision to lower the flag at the White House is completely up to the president and President Trump has followed the US flag code which states that the flag shall be lowered for a member of Congress on the day of their death and the day after.
However, traditionally, presidents have issued proclamations which order flags to remain at half staff until the day of the burial for dignitaries such as a sitting Senator. For instance, while President Obama was in office, four Senators died while in office and proclamations for three of them, Kennedy, Byrd, and Inouye ordered the flags at half staff until the day of burial. There was no proclamation issued for Sen. Frank Lautenberg but US Today states that, per Lautenberg’s obituary, flags were flown at half staff at the White House.
Additionally, Obama ordered the White House flags to be lowered to half staff upon the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia until the day of his burial.
President Trump has garnered criticism for his decisions on when to lower flags or not following mass shooting incidents. Flags were lowered in honor of the victims of the Parkland school shooting and the mass shooting in Las Vegas. But when the Capitol Gazette newsroom was attacked, it took five days before Trump lowered the White House flags. Trump’s antagonistic relationship with the press is well known.
While McCain is the first sitting Senator to pass during the Trump presidency, when former first lady Barbara Bush passed, Donald Trump issued a proclamation honoring her and ordered White House flags to be lowered until the day of her burial. The president has not issued a proclamation honoring the war hero’s passing, opting instead to tweet a brief message to the McCain family and posting the message and a picture of himself on the official White House Instagram account.
The relationship between Trump and McCain has been strained since the early days of the Trump candidacy. In June 2015, Senator McCain publicly took issue with Trump’s statement about Mexican immigrants being rapists. Trump criticized McCain at an Arizona rally and McCain stated that Trump had “fired up the crazies” in Arizona. Trump demanded an apology and, when it was not forthcoming, famously said of the man who spent five and a half years being tortured in a Vietnam prison, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Their adversarial relationship continued until the end, with John McCain declaring in June that Trump had abased himself before a tyrant in the joint press conference with Putin in Helsinki.
On Wednesday, Senator McCain will lie in state at the Arizona state capitol, followed by a memorial service in Phoenix on Thursday where his long-time friend former Vice President Joe Biden will speak.
On Friday, the senator will lie in state at the US Capitol, with former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama speaking at the second service on Saturday.
The flag at the White House has been lowered to half staff once again and the White House has release this statement: