Senator Ted Kennedy's closest friend and ally in the Senate urged Republican lawmakers on Wednesday to take a renewed and sincere interest in passing health care legislation in light of Kennedy's death.
A sorrowful Senator Chris Dodd, (D-Conn.) who is recovering from cancer himself, said that Kennedy's loss would have "tremendous" reverberations throughout the Senate. He said he hoped that one consequence would be to remind lawmakers that work needs to be done to fulfill Kennedy's lifelong goal of passing comprehensive health care reform.
"If you had a Republican president and a Republican-dominated House and Senate, they would have to deal with this issue. Their solutions might vary a little bit, but you cannot avoid this issue. And I think our Republican friends recognize and understand that. So I'm still optimistic that if temperatures can cool and maybe Teddy's passing will remind people once again that we are there to get a job done as he would do," Dodd said.
"Bring your passions to the debate. But then also remind people that you got elected in order to get a job done. And this is a job that needs to get done."
Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Dodd said that Kennedy had remained actively engaged in the current heath care debate even as he was physically failing.
"It was hard at some points for him to talk," Dodd said. "But he always knew what was going on. Every time you were with him, if he had a hard time communicating -- and he did the last month or two -- nevertheless the lights were on. He knew exactly what was going on. Two weeks ago, when he called, it was like he had never been sick. It was the darndest conversation. It was down to the details on quality and how to deal with costs. It was one of the best conversations in the past six to eight months."
Dodd said that while Kennedy "would have loved to have seen the bill enacted," he "felt confident that we are on track."
"Even though there is a lot of ranting and raving going on right now, I think things will calm down," Dodd said. "And [Kennedy's] spirit will be very much a part of it. it certainly has been over the last couple of months."