While the White House faced criticism for flying its flag at full-staff following the death of John McCain — ultimately lowering it again Monday — Pennsylvania and New Jersey ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff to honor the longtime Republican senator from Arizona.
Gov. Wolf has ordered all flags at the Capitol Complex and public buildings and grounds throughout the state to fly at half-staff through sunset on Sunday. Gov. Murphy, ordered flags to be lowered on Wednesday, which would have been McCain's 82nd birthday.
"Sen. John McCain dedicated his entire life to his country, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for his sacrifice and contributions over decades of service," Wolf said in a statement. McCain died Saturday, a day after his family said the senator was discontinuing treatment for brain cancer. "Sen. McCain embodied the core principles of American citizenship, and he put his country over himself at every turn. He will be missed."
While flags were flown at half-staff at other federal buildings in Washington Monday morning, the White House returned its flag to full-staff. Late Monday afternoon, following criticism, the White House reversed course, again lowering its flag to half-staff and issuing a proclamation stating that the flag would remain at half-staff in honor of McCain until his burial.
According to guidelines from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the flag is to be lowered "after the death of a United States senator" on the day of and day after the official's death.
The White House has not responded to a request for comment. President Trump did not issue a presidential proclamation for McCain, which is typically done to honor the death of a noteworthy national figure, until late Monday afternoon, amid the backlash over the White House's response.
Monday's proclamation called for flags "at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the federal government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States" to remain at half-staff until "sunset, on the day of interment."
McCain is expected to be buried Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
The Washington Post reported Sunday night that Trump had previously nixed such a proclamation in favor of a tweet that simply offered his "deepest sympathies" to McCain's family. According to the report, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, chief of staff John F. Kelly, and other White House aides had advocated for a statement referring to McCain as a "hero."
"Another reminder that Trump views the presidency and its powers exclusively as something for his personal use, not as a national trust that at times should transcend the individual in office," wrote my colleague Jonathan Tamari, who came across a single man playing a bagpipe Sunday in front of the Capitol to honor McCain's passing.
McCain earned Trump's ire after issuing a dramatic "no" vote back in July 2017 that proved decisive in keeping the Affordable Care Act alive, but Trump's dislike of the Arizona senator predates his presidency. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said he didn't consider McCain a war hero because he had been captured when his plane was shot down over Vietnam.