RIP Sen. Ted Kennedy

There are going to be many obituaries and eulogies for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. This will not be one of them. It would best serve us (and perhaps best please him) that, in the words he spoke in a eulogy for his assassinated brother Robert, he “not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

In the days, weeks and months to come, more nuanced reflections on his life will become increasingly common. His many personal failings will become a particular focus for some. Already, in some less civilized portions of American society, this has already begun to take place. For now, I am content merely to list what I found today as this man’s incredibly long list of legislative accomplishments.

  • Federal Election Campaign Amendments of 1974 – contribution limits and public financing for presidential elections (post-Watergate)
  • COBRA – extending employer-based health insurance after leaving a job
  • Americans with Diabilities Act – set new standards for accessibility of public facilities for persons with disabilities; prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of disability
  • SCHIP – provide public health insurance to low-income children
  • Mental Health Parity Act – equalize treatment of mental health issues in health insurance
  • HIPAA – allowed employees to retain insurance when moving to a new job; protection of personal health information
  • Ryan White AIDS Act – provide assistance to states who operate programs designed to help AIDS patients
  • INA Act of 1965 – ended quota system in immigration favoring northern Europeans
  • National Cancer Act of 1971 – quadrupled the amount of federal research funding for cancer treatment
  • Title IX – equal funding for men’s and women’s sports on college campuses
  • Blocking Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court – basically every good thing that has happened judicially over the past 20 years
  • National Teachers Corps – the predecessor of Teach for America
  • Anti-Apartheid Act – banned purchase of certain goods from South Africa under apartheid
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991
  • National and Community Service Trust Act- created Americorps to expand volunteerism and provide grants to students who volunteer after college
  • Two increases in the minimum wage
  • Head Start – providing meals and early education to underprivileged pre-school children
  • WIC – food assistance to low-income women and children
  • Meals on Wheels – federal program delivering found to homebound senior citizens
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – free education to children with disabilities
  • Lowering the voting age to 18
  • Refugee Act – provision of humanitarian assistance, resettlement, and asylum to foreign refugees
  • Civil Rights Commission amendments – expanded CRC’s jurisdiction to discrimination on the basis of disability
  • Creation of MLK Jr. Day
  • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – allowing persons to sue for past wages if they have been the victim of unequal pay on the basis of gender discrimination
  • Increased access for the disabled to polling places
  • Family and Medical Leave Act- provided up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for family emergencies or newborn infants
  • FHA amendments to help the disabled – prohibiting discrimination against the disabled in housing
  • Even Start – early education and literacy for underprivileged children and families
  • Fuel assistance for low-income families
  • Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – cut in half the nuclear arsenals of the US and Soviet Union
  • Removal of prohibition on female combat pilots
  • Direct student loans from the federal government
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families – welfare-to-work assistance
  • Gulf Coast Recovery Act – emergency funding for recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina
  • PROTECT Act – enhanced Amber Alert
  • No Child Left Behind – federal standards in education (initially supported, but never fully funded, much to Sen. Kennedy’s dismay)
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008
  • Family Opportunity Act of 2006 – allows states to expand Medicaid coverage to special needs children
  • Eliminated the poll tax from the Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • Violence Against Women Act – allowing battered women to move freely and establish residence without their husband’s permission
  • 1994 Crime Act – put over 100,000 additional police on the streets of American cities
  • Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – regulates the government’s use of electronic surveillance

The common thread of course is that most of Senator Kennedy’s principal legislative achievements were on behalf of people very different from himself– the disabled, the poor, the jobless, the victims.

The chief parlor game in Washington D.C., and in newsrooms around the country, tonight and for the next several weeks, is whether Kennedy’s death will make health care reform more or less likely. For what it is worth, my hope, wish and anticipation is that this will be the final push needed to make serious health care reform happen. The irony will be that the cause for which Senator Kennedy lived and fought so long will be the one he had to die to achieve.

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5 thoughts on “RIP Sen. Ted Kennedy

  1. If your idea of serious health care reform is single payor government run like in Canada and Great Britain, would Senator Kennedy have gotten treatment for the incurable fatal brain tumor that he had? Most likely at 76 years old, he would have been denied treatment and most likely died sooner. Who can put a value on that extra year he lived and the accomplishments he had during that time. That's what I'm afraid of…….

  2. Since Ted Kennedy was a Kennedy, I don't think he would of been denied anything during this last year. Single payer or current system. Wouldn't make a difference.

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