KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Kennedy Pushes Fast Transition As Hopes Dim For His Return To Washington

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., "is trying to make sure that the leading cause in his life, better health coverage for all, advances in the event of his death" with a recent letter to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and leaders in the state legislature, the Boston Globe reports. Current state law requires voters to choose a replacement in special elections when a sitting senator does not finish a term. However, Kennedy's letter asks legislators to allow Patrick to appoint a temporary replacement when he leaves his seat vacant at the end of his ongoing battle with terminal brain cancer. Kennedy wrote, "I strongly support that law and the principle that the people should elect their senator. I also believe it is vital for this Commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election."

The Globe adds: "Kennedy advisers were adamant yesterday that the timing of the letter did not reflect any imminent emergency in the health of the senator, who has been battling brain cancer since May 2008. Rather, it was sent this week after the Globe began making inquiries to key Beacon Hill officials over murmurings that some politicians were pushing for a change in the law (Phillips, 8/20).

The Globe published a pdf of the letter.

In Washington, "Insiders say that Kennedy, and maybe Kennedy alone, has the stature to help President Barack Obama bridge the gap between liberals who insist on a government-run option and moderates who remain fearful of the cost - and even bring along some Republican support as well," Politico reports. His rapport with key Republicans, such as Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, could have massaged the partisan divide, and his stature in the Democratic Party may have helped avoid fractures among progressives, experts say. However, an unnamed Democrat with ties to the Senate leadership, said, "It just seems like [Kennedy] is not coming back" (Bresnahan and Raju, 8/19).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.