Sen. Edward Kennedy Loses Battle with Brain Cancer

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) died late last night, at 77, of the brain cancer he had fought since May 2008.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) died late last night, at 77, of the brain cancer he had fought since May 2008.

Known as the "Lion of the Senate," Kennedy played a significant role in the passage of cornerstone pieces of legislation, including, writes CNN, "the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1990
Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1993 Family and Medical Leave
Act." Kennedy wrote 2500 bills, 300 of which became law, Don Auocin, Boston Globe staff writer, said on the Brian Lehrer Show this morning.

Kennedy was a strong voice in defense of women’s and reproductive rights, and a consistent recipient of 100% rankings from Planned Parenthood Federation of America.  "For years, when few other Senators would take women’s rights seriously, the women’s movement could count on Senator Kennedy," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, in a statement. "Behind the scenes, Senator Kennedy would sit down with the leaders and
activists of the women’s and civil rights movements and strategize."  Kennedy was a leader on major pieces of women’s rights legislation, including Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, SCHIP and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

At The American Prospect, Harold Meyerson remembers the senator:

He did not get to liberalism’s promised land, of course. The universal
health coverage he’d fought for throughout his career is still
unrealized; his death may make it harder to realize, at least in the
immediate months to come. Labor law remains unreformed, and America’s
12 million undocumented immigrants still live in the shadows with no
legal path to citizenship. These were all battles that Kennedy would
have led; he was the go-to guy, the champion, the orator, the
deal-maker for the uninsured, the undocumented, the
unable-to-join-unions; the senior senator from Massachusetts and for
all the excluded in American life.

Christine at Our Bodies, Our Blog
notes that Kennedy has been fighting for universal health care coverage
since 1970, when he first introduced a bill that would have provided
universal coverage.

In early July, Kennedy asked Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and state lawmakers to alter a state law that replaces a vacated Senate seat by means of a special election 145 to 160 days the seat opens.  Kennedy wanted "Gov. Deval Patrick
appoint a temporary replacement upon his death, to assure that the
state’s representation in Congress would not be interrupted by a
special election," reports the New York Times. At Salon, Joan Walsh writes,

…it’s my job to talk about the political impact of Kennedy’s death, and
I have to say: Despite Sen. Orrin Hatch’s statement this weekend that
Kennedy would have brokered a bipartisan healthcare bill, absolutely no
evidence supports that point of view. So Democrats must actively refute
Hatch’s (now multiple) statements insisting healthcare reform would
have Republican support if Kennedy were still in the Senate,
glad-handing and arm-twisting.