July 25, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Kennedy, the ‘Liberal Lion,’ Leaves a Historic Legacy

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D), the Senate’s “liberal lion” for nearly a half-century, died late Tuesday in the midst of an epic Congressional battle over his career-long goal of restructuring of the nation’s health care system. Massachusetts’ senior Senator died after battling a cancerous brain tumor over the past 15 months. Kennedy, the younger brother of President John Kennedy and Sen. Robert Kennedy, was 77.Kennedy’s public appearances were rare but dramatic over the past year. He received a hero’s welcome at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver and made a surprise appearance on the Senate floor in February to provide a crucial vote for the economic stimulus package. He also took breaks from his cancer treatment to vote on cherished issues such as a national service initiative — which was renamed in his honor — and to combat financial fraud.But Kennedy, a longtime foe of the tobacco industry, was unable to make it to Capitol Hill for a vote this spring on legislation that for the first time gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products.Kennedy did make the trip to the Capitol on Jan. 20 for the inauguration of President Barack Obama — his endorsement of Obama provided a huge public relations boost for the then-junior Illinois Senator in his epic Democratic primary battle against then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.But Kennedy was stricken with a seizure at Obama’s inaugural luncheon in Statuary Hall and forced to leave early.As Obama embarked on his signature campaign to pass health care reform legislation, Kennedy — who this summer called health care reform “the cause of my life” — was physically unable to shepherd a bill from his position as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Kennedy spent the 12 years of GOP dominance on Capitol Hill as a vociferous critic of Republican priorities, and he reclaimed the HELP Committee gavel in 2006 with a determination to implement the liberal policies he had been advocating for decades.But in May 2008, Kennedy suffered a seizure at his family’s compound in Massachusetts, and doctors discovered days later that he had a life-threatening brain tumor.Knowing the prognosis was grim, Senators and aides reacted to Kennedy’s diagnosis with tears on the Senate floor and in the hallways of the Capitol. With an outlook of less than five years, Kennedy sought to minimize the tumor’s size by undergoing surgery in June 2008.He remained secluded in Massachusetts and Florida for most of his recovery but made a surprise appearance on the Senate floor in July 2008 to cast the deciding vote on a Medicare bill. In August, he delighted Democratic National Convention attendees by appearing at a planned tribute to his life and work.Kennedy was an early and influential supporter of Obama’s candidacy, and he dedicated himself in the latter part of 2008 and early months of 2009 to writing a universal health insurance bill built around Obama’s plan.

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