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Known as the “Lion of the Senate,” Democrat Ted Kennedy was a staunch liberal who was elected to Congress 9 times, spearheading many legislative reforms.
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He also helped author the 1997 Children's Health Act, which increased access to health care for children age 18 and under.
But by the late 1990s, Ted Kennedy had become one of the Senate's most prominent members. He amassed a monumental legislative record, passing bills that affected the lives of many Americans of all classes and races. Kennedy sponsored legislation on immigration reform, criminal code reform, fair housing, public education, health care, AIDS research,
and a variety of programs to aid the poor. On the Senate Judiciary Committee, he upheld liberal positions on abortion, capital punishment, and busing. Kennedy did this through political skill and bipartisan friendships with conservative Republicans, all the while maintaining his principled liberal roots. Teaming up with conservative stalwarts such as Senators Nancy Kassebaum, John McCain, and Orrin Hatch, Kennedy has cosponsored legislation on worker's healthcare benefits, immigration, and funding for traumatic brain injuries.
Kennedy extended his legislative record in the new millennium. He worked with both Democrats and Republicans to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, in an effort to close the achievement gap in public schools. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, he coordinated with various agencies to respond to the mental health needs of victims' families. He also helped sponsor the bipartisan Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act to prevent, prepare for, and respond to bioterrorism emergencies. An initial supporter of the war in Iraq, Kennedy sponsored legislation to procure additional armored Humvees in Iraq battle zones. Throughout the rest of the decade, Kennedy sponsored or cosponsored legislation to enhance the ability of law enforcement to protect abducted children; reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; boost support for Hurricane Katrina victims; and expand Medicaid coverage.
On May 17, 2008, Ted Kennedy entered Cape Cod Hospital after suffering a seizure. Three days later doctors diagnosed the senator with a malignant glioma, an especially lethal type of brain tumor. Kennedy underwent surgery on June 2. "I am deeply grateful to the people of Massachusetts and to my friends, colleagues and so many others across the country and around the world who have expressed their support and good wishes as I tackle this new and unexpected health challenge," Kennedy said in a statement released hours before the surgery began. "I am humbled by the outpouring and am strengthened by your prayers and kindness."
Following the operation, doctors pronounced the procedure successful, saying Kennedy should experience no permanent neurological effects. A spokeswoman for Kennedy also said the senator spoke with his wife shortly after surgery, telling her, "I feel like a million bucks. I think I'll do that again tomorrow."
As the 2008 presidential primaries moved into full throttle in January, Kennedy endorsed Illinois Senator Barack Obama for president. After the primaries had all but determined Obama to be the presidential candidate, Kennedy made an emotional appearance at the Democratic Convention in Denver, Colorado.
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There's no such thing as royalty in the United States, but if anyone has ever come close to that level, it's the Kennedy family. For 64 years, Washington had at least one Kennedy in public office. Descended from Irish Catholics who fled the potato famine, the family has a strong tradition in the Democratic party, the most prominent member being President John F. Kennedy. In addition to fame and political power, the Kennedy clan has had more than its fair share of tragedy—several members of the family have died in accidents and assassinations, in what's been called the "Kennedy curse."
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