Health Care Reform Loses Key Fighter

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Throughout his decades in public service, one of Sen. Ted Kennedy's main crusades was pushing health care reform.

Now that he has died, what will that mean for the Democratic party's chances of passing their current legislation?

From the time he was a senator, Kennedy's public service mission had a common theme of fairness and health care for all was his passion.

"For his family, he was a guardian.  For America, he was the defender of a dream," said President Obama.

His life-long cause pursuing the dream of universal health care in the Senate may never have happened if not for one fateful night.

It became known in history as Chappaquiddick.  Kennedy was involved in a car crash off of Chappaquiddick Island. His female companion in the car died and Kennedy left the scene of the accident.

"There is no question that he would have had an excellent shot to become President of the United States, had it not been for Chappaquiddick," said presidential historian Allan Lichtman. 

Instead, Kennedy never left the Senate and became known not just as the "Liberal Lion" of the Senate but also a dealmaker-- a skill that will be missed in the current partisan health care debate.

"He was one of the few people who could have sat down had he been healthy with senators from both sides and hammered out a compromise," explained Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Kennedy did just that in his home state of Massachusetts when he convinced liberals there to accept a health care reform deal with the conservative governor at the time, Mitt Romney.

"He did that in Massachusetts. I think he would have done that with Democrats in the Senate if he had been available to do so," said Joseph Antos of the American Enterprise Institute.

The debate on health care will not only lose one of the best negotiators in the business but something just as equally important.

"Ted Kennedy is one of the few experts, true experts on health policy and health reform in the Senate," Antos added.

More than that, despite what his views were on health care, he was a friend to Democrats and Republicans alike.

"Don't you find it remarkable that one of the most partisan, liberal men in the last century serving in the Senate had so many of hi foes embracing him," said Vice President Joe Biden.

This is no doubt an emotional time for Democrats especially.

Some in Congress have already suggested that any health care reform bill signed into law have Sen. Ted Kennedy's name on it. wendy.

As for Kennedy's seat, at this point a special election will be held sometime in Jan. 2010.

Before his death, Kennedy asked that the law be changed and allow the governor to quickly appoint someone.

Gov. Deval Patrick, who is a Democrat, said he'd be open to changing the law if a bill lands on his desk, but there's currently no guarantee of that.

Democratic leaders in the Senate would prefer to have another Democrat in the Senate, sooner rather than later.

The big question surrounding potential replacements for Kennendy in the Senate is if it will be a family member like his nephew Joseph Kennedy or even a U.S. congressman like Barney Frank or Ed Markey.

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