Tearful Sen. Flake: ‘It’s tough to imagine politics without John McCain. But we need to go on’

Sen. Jeff Flake remembers friend and colleague Sen. John McCain, his fellow Republican from Arizona.

(CNN) — Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake teared up Sunday morning when discussing his colleague Sen. John McCain’s legacy, less than a day after the elder statesman’s death.

“It’s tough. I’m going to miss him,” Flake said, visibly emotional after CNN’s Jake Tapper replayed footage on “State of the Union” of McCain praising Flake on the Senate floor after the then-junior Arizona senator announced his decision not to run for re-election.

“I’ve admired him … my entire life, and it’s tough to imagine the Senate without him,” he said. “It’s tough to imagine politics without John McCain, but we need to go on.”

Flake said that he was with McCain on Friday to say goodbye, and to thank McCain’s family. He stressed that McCain’s “voice for civility” was especially important this past year.

“His voice was important, has been for years, but never more important than the past year,” Flake said. “It’s tough to have a voice like that silenced — this voice for civility, to put the country above your party, these are things that he taught for years and never more important than the last year.”

Flake also said that he “admired” McCain’s dramatic “no” vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act in July of last year despite voting the other way, as well as McCain’s emphasis on senators working together across party lines.

“He spoke to the Senate at that time, about how we needed to come together and not just do things in a partisan way,” Flake added. “That was his biggest issue with that approach that we were taking, that it wasn’t a bipartisan approach.

“John McCain is quintessential Arizonan — he’s a maverick, he’s independent. I didn’t vote the same way he did, but I admired him for doing what he did,” Flake said.