Boston.com - Kennedy Returns to Weigh in on Healthcare
Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who has declared healthcare as his final mission, appeared at the close of today's White House summit.
Kennedy drew a lengthy standing ovation and cheers.
"To Sir Edward Kennedy. That's the kind of greeting a knight deserves," President Obama said, noting that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced Wednesday that the Massachusetts lawmaker is receiving an honorary knighthood.
"It is thrilling to see you here, Teddy," the president added. "We are so grateful for you taking the time to be here and the extraordinary work that your committee has already started to do."
Obama also gave Kennedy the first question. Taking the microphone, Kennedy called the summit a "very special gathering."
"I join with all of those that feel that this is the time, now is the time, for action," Kennedy said. "I think most of us who have been in this room before have seen other times when the House and the Senate have made efforts, but they haven't been the kind of serious effort that I think that we're seeing right now.
"If you look over this gathering here today, you see the representatives of all the different groups that we have met with over the period of years," he added. "I mean, you have the insurance companies, you have the medical professions -- all represented in one form or another. That has not been the case over the history of the past, going all the way back to Harry Truman's time. But it is the case now. And it is, I think, a tribute to your leadership in bringing all these people together and really a leadership of so many that are gathered here today.
"What it does is basically challenges all of us to really do the best we can.....I just want to say that I'm looking forward to being a foot soldier in this undertaking. And this time, we will not fail."
Obama also made sure to shake hands with Kennedy first after his concluding remarks and wrapping up the summit.
It was the veteran Massachusetts lawmaker's first return to the nation's capital since casting a key vote on the economic stimulus package last month. Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, has been recuperating in Florida since suffering a seizure on Inauguration Day.
Kennedy and his staff have been working closely with Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee, on legislation for a healthcare overhaul.