Kennedy Steals the Show at White House

Posted March 5, 2009 at 4:31pm

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on Thursday made a dramatic appearance at the conclusion of President Barack Obama’s White House health care conference, delivering brief remarks on an issue he has come to symbolize during his many years in the Senate battling for wider health coverage.

Kennedy, who has brain cancer, stood as he spoke in the East Room and delivered extemporaneous remarks without notes. Sounding firm, though in a tone that was perhaps a bit more wan than is customary, Kennedy promised to be part of Obama’s effort.

“I join with all of those who feel that now is the time for action,— Kennedy said. “I’m looking forward to being a foot soldier in this undertaking, and this time we will not fail.—

Soon afterward, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) corrected Kennedy’s modesty, saying that he was not just a “foot soldier— but the “inspiration— behind the effort.

Obama ended his conference on an inclusive note, pointing to the broad array of stakeholders and Republican and Democratic lawmakers on hand. He called for an “American solution— that “mixes public and private,— and he made his argument that in an era of record deficits, health care reform still makes sense.

“Nothing is harder in politics than doing something now, that costs money, in order to gain benefits 20 years from now,— Obama said.

With participants in the final session sticking mostly to generalities, Obama’s theme of outreach was generally reciprocated by Republicans and business leaders who are wary of the effort. Karen Ignagni, who leads the group America’s Health Insurance Plans, pledged cooperation and said her group shares Obama’s goal of passing legislation this year.