Senator Ted Kennedy, battling brain cancer, surprised Senate colleagues
Wednesday when he returned to the chamber to cast a decisive vote on
government health care legislation for the elderly and disabled, known
as Medicare. His vote was key to passing the measure, which had long
been stalled amid partisan gridlock. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from
It was a moment of drama as Senator Kennedy
entered the chamber, prompting applause from Democrats and Republicans
alike on the Senate floor and cheers from spectators up in the gallery.
was his first time back to the Senate since he was diagnosed with a
malignant brain tumor following a seizure at his home in Massachusetts
in May. Since then, he has undergone surgery and is now getting
chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Kennedy walked into the
chamber accompanied by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama,
fellow Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, and Kennedy's son, Congressman
Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island. He cast his vote and soon after left
to return to Massachusetts to continue his cancer treatment.
Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, took note of the moment. "We
have had a very dramatic moment here on the floor of the Senate, and I
think there wasn't a person in the room or the gallery who wasn't
thrilled to see Senator Kennedy back and looking so good, to do what he
always does, and that is have the commitment and go the extra mile to
keep that commitment," she said.
Kennedy's dramatic return was key to clearing the way for passage of the Medicare bill.
including Senator Hutchison, had criticized Democratic leaders for not
allowing the measure to be amended, and had blocked the bill from
advancing on the Senate floor. Under Senate rules, 60 votes are
needed in the 100-member chamber to overcome the roadblock. The bill
received the support of only 59 senators in a procedural vote last
When Republicans learned that Kennedy's vote would
advance the legislation, some of them joined Democrats to support the
move - a fitting tribute to Kennedy, who is known as a champion of
health care, among other social issues.
McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, announced the vote as she presided
over the Senate. "The yeas are 69, the nays are 30. Three-fifths of
the senators duly chosen and sworn, having voted in the affirmative,
the motion is agreed to."
Under a previous agreement, once the bill met the 60-vote threshold, it was considered approved.