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End of an Epoch: Kennedy to Be Buried Near Brothers at Arlington
Leaders on nearly every continent noted Sen. Kennedy's impact on resolving political conflicts over race, religion and sect, whether in Northern Ireland or in South Africa under apartheid. He pushed for economic sanctions against South Africa's all-white regime and joined protests outside the prison that held Nelson Mandela. He "made his voice heard in the struggle against apartheid at a time when the freedom struggle was not widely supported in the West," the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement yesterday.
Congressional scholar Thomas E. Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, described Edward Kennedy's mark on the Senate as "an amazing and endurable presence. You want to go back to the 19th century to find parallels, but you won't find parallels. It was the completeness of his involvement in the work of the Senate that explains his career."
Opponents caricatured him as a symbol of liberal excess. Yet he was perhaps the most popular of senators, with many friends across the aisle. Through compromise, he could attract their votes.
He collaborated with a Republican president, George W. Bush, on education reform; with a Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), on immigration reform; and with an arch-conservative senator, J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, on major crime legislation. Only Thurmond, who died in 2003 at age 100, and Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) served longer than Sen. Kennedy.
"We have passed so much legislation together," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-Utah) whose friendship with Sen. Kennedy went back decades.
Champion of Health Care
Sen. Kennedy called health care "the cause of my life." His measures gave access to care for millions and funded treatment around the world. He was a longtime advocate for universal health care and promoted biomedical research, as well as AIDS research and treatment. He championed the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and the 1996 Kennedy-Kassebaum bill -- with Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.) -- which allowed employees to keep health insurance after leaving their job.
"Do we really care about our fellow citizens?" he asked countless times, in one form or another, during his long Senate career. He faced opposition from most Republicans -- and more than a few Democrats -- who said his proposals for universal health care amounted to socialized medicine that would lead to bureaucratic sclerosis and budget-breaking costs and inefficiencies.
Only weeks after his brain tumor was diagnosed in May 2008, he rose from his hospital bed to vote for legislation blocking deep cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. Several Republicans were so moved that they switched votes, assuring passage.
Cancer had touched his family before. His son Edward Kennedy Jr. lost a leg to bone cancer at age 12 in 1973. His daughter, Kara Anne Kennedy, had lung cancer diagnosed in 2003.
Beyond health care, the list of major laws bearing his imprint fills pages. In 1965, he led the Senate in passing the most significant immigration reform in decades. The Hart-Celler Act abolished old quotas and lifted a ban on immigration from Asia.
As the Senate's leading voice on civil rights, he worked for the 1982 Voting Rights Act extension and extension of workplace protections to women and the disabled.
He resisted Republican efforts in the 1980s to roll back programs he had championed, and even in the minority, he sought a greater government role in gaining health care for children, loans to college students and civil rights for the disabled, among other initiatives.