President Obama Tells St. Patrick’s Luncheon on Capitol Hill that Ted Kennedy is Watching Them This Health Care Week

Mar 17, 2010 2:27pm

At House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s annual Friends of Annual luncheon this afternoon, President Obama told the crowd that the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., was paying attention to the health care reform battle as it reaches its final hours.

The president said that today “we all feel the heavy absence of one of our greatest Irish-Americans; a man who loved this day so much; a man who I believe is still watching this body closely, particularly this week — and that is our beloved Ted Kennedy. “

Kennedy was a longtime advocate of expanding government-run health insurance and would have played a key role in the formation of the health care reform bill had he not taken ill.

At the luncheon, the president noted the presence of Kennedy’s widow Victoria Reggie and his son Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-RI.

Mr. Obama said that Kennedy, even “as he waged epic and unyielding battles in this building…was a believer that we were all friends after six o’clock.  And more importantly, he was a believer in building consensus, in forging compromise, in the idea that the only way that we can accomplish the work of the American people is to work together. “

Mr. Obama recalled that maybe five years ago on St. Patrick’s Day, Kennedy “cornered me on the Senate floor for my support on a piece of legislation.  And I told him, ‘You’ve got my vote, Teddy, but I got to tell you, this is not looking good.  I do not think this thing is going to fly.’  But it did, with votes to spare.  And so I grabbed Teddy, pulled him aside.  I said, ‘How did you pull that off?’  And he just patted me on the back and he said, ‘Luck of the Irish!’”

The president will need some of that luck as he and Democratic congressional leaders push to pass health care reform legislation by Saturday.

Earlier in his remarks, the president noted that during his presidential campaign some genealogists had discovered some of his Irish roots,  “and my first thought was: ‘Why didn’t anyone discover this when I was running for office in Chicago? I would have gotten here sooner.’”

“I used to put the apostrophe after the O but that did not work,” he said to laughter.

As you may recall, from the Irish town of Moneygall — from whence President-elect Obama says his great great great grandfather hailed – came a song: “There’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama.”

- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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