Senate pauses to remember Ted Kennedy

WASHINGTON -- With solemn words and bittersweet memories, the Senate paused Thursday to remember Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's nearly five decades in Congress and his passionate commitment to health care reform.

"The impact he etched into our history will long endure," Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said. Reid added: "His dream shall never die."

Senators' tributes to the Massachusetts Democrat, who saw expanding health coverage as his lifetime cause, came as congressional Democrats began their push to get back on track with efforts to overhaul the health care system.

The night before, President Barack Obama invoked Kennedy's legacy in a speech urging Congress to deliver the sweeping health legislation. Obama cited a letter Kennedy wrote to him before his death, calling health care "above all a moral issue."

Kennedy's Massachusetts colleague, Sen. John Kerry, cited Kennedy's long fight for universal health care.

"For three decades, including his last days, he labored with all his might to make health care a right for all Americans," Kerry said Thursday.

Kerry said senators would miss Kennedy's booming voice and his big heart.

"On many occasions, he was the indispensable man," Kerry said. "On every occasion, in this chamber and out, he was a man whose heart was as big as heaven, whose optimism could overwhelm any doubters and whose joy for life was wonderfully contagious."

Kerry noted Kennedy's empty desk, draped with black velvet cloth. A glass vase of white roses and a copy of a favorite Kennedy poem, Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," were perched atop the desk at the rear of the chamber.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Kennedy's Senate career spanned 10 presidents. Along the way, McConnell said, Kennedy became a fierce partisan whose personable style turned political enemies into friends.

"Ted got along with everybody," McConnell said. "His great weapon ... was simply this - people liked him."

Kennedy died Aug. 25 at 77, succumbing to brain cancer after a 15-month fight. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery near his slain brothers, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.

Democrats are capping a day of tributes to the late senator with a resolution to name the Senate's most famous hearing room after the trio of Kennedy brothers who served in the Senate.

The gilded caucus room of the Russell Senate Office Building would be renamed the "Kennedy Caucus Room" under a resolution expected to be approved this week.


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