Politicians Cross Party Lines To Honor Kennedy

Political figures remember Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Aug. 26, 2009— -- The Tuesday night death of Sen. Ted Kennedy has spurred a worldwide outpouring of condolences this morning from friends and colleagues across the political world.

President Obama said in a statement that he and first lady Michelle Obama were "heartbroken" to learn of the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, whom they called "our dear friend."

"An important chapter in our history has come to an end," the president said. "Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time."

In a press conference this morning, Obama called Kennedy "one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve Congress."

Visit ABC News' special section on Ted Kennedy.

Reactions have spanned the political spectrum, with figures who have both cooperated and quarrelled with the Senate's "Liberal Lion" releasing public statements mourning Kennedy's death:

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.: "He taught us how to fight, how to laugh, how to treat each other, and how to turn idealism into action, and in these last fourteen months he taught us much more about how to live life, sailing into the wind one last time."

Vice President Joe Biden: "Every day I was with him, and this is going to sound strange, he restored my sense of idealism and faith about what this country could do," the VP said in a press conference. "I was privileged to be one of those people, every important event in my adult life, every single one, he was there."

Former President George H.W. Bush: Kennedy was "a seminal figure in the United States Senate."

"Barbara and I were deeply saddened to learn Ted Kennedy lost his valiant battle with cancer. While we didn't see eye-to-eye on many political issues through the years, I always respected his steadfast public service, so much so, in fact, that I invited him to my library in 2003 to receive the Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service," the former president said in a written statement. "Ted Kennedy was a seminal figure in the United States Senate, a leader who answered the call to duty for some 47 years, and whose death closes a remarkable chapter in that body's history."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "When I was First Lady, we worked together to provide health insurance for America's children," she said in a statement. "When I arrived in the Senate, he was a generous mentor and a thoughtful colleague. We worked together to raise the minimum wage, improve education, and champion the cause we shared so deeply: ensuring that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care. And as Secretary of State, I valued his counsel on how to make America a force for peace and progress around the world."

Former President Bill Clinton: "Senator Ted Kennedy was one of the most influential leaders of our time, and one of the greatest senators in American history. His big heart, sharp mind, and boundless energy were gifts he gave to make our democracy a more perfect union."

"As President, I was thankful for his fierce advocacy for universal health care and his leadership in providing health coverage to millions of children. His tireless efforts have brought us to the threshold of real health care reform. I was also grateful for his efforts, often in partnership with Republicans as well as Democrats, to advance civil rights, promote religious freedom, make college more affordable, and give young Americans the opportunity to serve at home in Americorp. I am glad the bill President Obama signed to expand Americorp and other youth service opportunities is named the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. Through it, his commitment to public service will live on in millions of young people across our nation."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.: "Ted Kennedy's dream of quality health care for all Americans will be made real this year because of his leadership and his inspiration."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: "As we mourn his loss, we rededicate ourselves to the causes for which he so dutifully dedicated his life. Senator Kennedy's legacy stands with the greatest, the most devoted, the most patriotic men and women to ever serve in these halls."

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Illinois: "Today there is an empty chair in our Senate and an empty feeling in our hearts."

"We all waited expectantly during Ted's struggle with cancer for the Senate doors to swing wide and that great Irish spirit to once again return."

"His voice roared as he battled for the poor and the victims of injustice yet he had a smile that could light a room, a laugh that would draw a crowd and a heart always ready to share your sorrow. America was blessed to have the gift of Ted Kennedy and I was blessed to count him as a friend."

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.V.: "I had hoped and prayed that this day would never come. My heart and soul weeps at the lost of my best friend in the Senate, my beloved friend, Ted Kennedy," he said in a statement. "Senator Kennedy and I both witnessed too many wars in our lives, and believed too strongly in the Constitution of the United States to allow us to go blindly into war. That is why we stood side by side in the Senate against the war in Iraq."

Byrd also called for a renaming of the current health care bill after Kennedy. "In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American," he also said.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.: "Ted Kennedy was a gifted, inspiring, irresistible man, a great American public servant, and a real Master of the Senate. What he said of his brother Bob was true of him: Ted saw wrong and tried to right it, he saw suffering and tried to heal it. A passionate Democrat, he nonetheless was at the center of great bipartisan accomplishments over the last five decades of American public life. He knew when to stand and advocate and when to sit and negotiate. That's why he got so much done," he said in a statement.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: In a statement issued by the senator's office, he said he is "very saddened to hear the news of the loss of this close and dear friend, Senator Kennedy -- the last lion of the Senate."

On Sunday's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" McCain had said he missed Kennedy on the Hill and called his absence a huge loss for health care negotiations in Congress.

"No person in that institution is indispensable, but Ted Kennedy comes as close to being indispensable as any individual I've ever known in the Senate because he had a unique way of sitting down with the parties at a table and making the right concessions, which really are the essence of successful negotiations," McCain said Sunday.

Sen. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell: "It is with great sadness that Elaine and I note the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy, one of the giants of American political life, a longtime Senate colleague, and a friend. No one could have known the man without admiring the passion and vigor he poured into a truly momentous life," he said in a statement. "We send our deepest expressions of sympathy to Vicki, his children, and the entire Kennedy family."

Politicians Offer Condolences on Kennedy Death

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio: "The people of Massachusetts and the United States Congress have lost a tireless public servant," he said in a statement. "Ted Kennedy was my friend. While there were few political issues on which he and I agreed, our relationship was never disagreeable, and was always marked by good humor, hard work, and a desire to find common ground."

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc.: "Senator Kennedy was a hero of mine both before and after I came to the United States Senate. Senator Kennedy was one of the greatest Senators in American history and serving alongside him in the Senate is one of the great honors of my life. His unyielding dedication to equality, justice and improving the lives of his fellow citizens was unmatched and his loss is immeasurable," he said in a statement.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.: "Ted Kennedy was more than a Senate icon who fought tirelessly for the causes he believed in so passionately. He was more than a voice for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He was a loving son, brother, husband, father, uncle and grandfather and friend. Working with him for the last 30 years was one of the great honors I've had as a United States Senator," he said in a written statement.

Admiral Michael Mullen: Admiral Mullen Tweeted this morning, "Woke up in Boston to news of Sen. Kennedy's passing. My deepest condolences, on behalf of all of us in uniform, go out to his family."

DNC Chairman Tim Kaine: "Today we mourn the loss of one the greatest and most consequential political figures in American history with the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy.

"Senator Kennedy was adored by millions of Americans and was respected by colleagues on both sides of the aisle for his energy, his passion, his humor, his compassion, his friendship and above all his commitment to serve his country in pursuit of a more common good for every American.

"In the Senate, he was called the Lion. To the Democratic Party whose values and ideals were embodied in and shaped by this great man, he was a giant. To the American people, he will be remembered as one of the greatest and most accomplished legislators in American history. And to his family he will be remembered as a father, a husband, an uncle, a brother, a grandfather and a friend."

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick: "One of the Commonwealth's brightest lights went out last night. Ted Kennedy was a compassionate, effective, visionary statesman, family man and friend. Diane and I were blessed by his company, support and many kindnesses, and miss him profoundly. We pray for comfort for his beloved wife and partner Vicki and his entire family," said the governor in a statement release by his office.

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg: "Senator Kennedy was much more than a great liberal lion and master orator. He was a pragmatist who reached across the aisle to pass legislation that has improved the lives of people around the world. I particularly admired his bi-partisan leadership on health care, education, and immigration reform, and he was a critical ally in our efforts to ensure that all 9/11 first responders receive the care and treatment they deserve. But more than all that, I will remember Senator Kennedy as a gracious and generous man, a man with a big heart and a ready laugh, a man who endured terrible family tragedy, and who guided his loved ones, and the whole country, through some of our darkest days."

New York Gov. David Paterson: "In his 46 years of service [he] was recognized by everybody, even Republicans .... all had profound respect for him."

"He's clearly going to be missed. And I think what he brought to the discussion was a steadfast discipline, criticism of where America needs to improve, but honesty. And you don't get that clear message from everyone you talk to these days," he also said.

David Axelrod, President Obama's senior adviser: Speaking by phone with "Good Morning America," he said that Kennedy "became this joyous presence on the campaign trail. He traveled with us for a few days. I was lucky enough to be along on that trip, and it was an incredible experience to see the passion and the joy and the enthusiasm that he brought to it. He very quickly became a beloved figure around the campaign because of that and because of the way he treated people and just a good-hearted person and a great passionate spokesman for us."

Paul G. Kirk, Jr., Chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's Board of Directors: "Without a doubt, Senator Kennedy was the most accomplished and effective legislator for economic and social justice in the history of our democracy. He was also the most thoughtful and genuinely considerate friend I have known. Among his many contributions to the human spirit, he taught us to persevere and draw hope and strength at a time of loss and adversity. May we all live up to his example."

Kennedy's Death Sparks Outpouring of Condolences

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger "Maria and I are immensely saddened by the passing of Uncle Teddy. He was known to the world as the Lion of the Senate, a champion of social justice, and a political icon.

"Most importantly, he was the rock of our family: a loving husband, father, brother and uncle. He was a man of great faith and character.

"Teddy inspired our country through his dedication to health care reform, his commitment to social justice, and his devotion to a life of public service.

"I have personally benefitted and grown from his experience and advice, and I know countless others have as well.

"Teddy taught us all that public service isn't a hobby or even an occupation, but a way of life and his legacy will live on."

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich: "Senator Kennedy devoted his entire life to public policy," he said in a statement. "At any point he could have accepted a life of leisure. Instead he carried on his family's commitment to public service.

"The Senate will be a smaller and sadder place without his enthusiasm, his energy, and his persistent courage."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah: "Today America lost a great elder statesman, a committed public servant, and leader of the Senate. And today I lost a treasured friend.

"Ted Kennedy was an iconic, larger-than-life United States Senator whose influence cannot be overstated. Many have come before, and many will come after, but Ted Kennedy's name will always be remembered as someone who lived and breathed the United States Senate and the work completed within its chamber," Hatch said. ""When I first came to the United States Senate, I was filled with conservative fire in my belly and an itch to take on any and everyone who stood in my way, including Ted Kennedy. As I began working within the confines of my office, I soon found out that while we almost always disagreed on most issues, once in a while we could actually get together and find the common ground, which is essential in passing legislation."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: "The loss of Senator Ted Kennedy is a sad event for America, and especially for Massachusetts. The last son of Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph Kennedy was granted a much longer life than his brothers, and he filled those years with endeavor and achievement that would have made them proud," the former GOP presidential candidate said in a statement. "In 1994, I joined the long list of those who ran against Ted and came up short. But he was the kind of man you could like even if he was your adversary. I came to admire Ted enormously for his charm and sense of humor, qualities all the more impressive in a man who had known so much loss and sorrow. I will always remember his great personal kindness, and the fighting spirit he brought to every cause he served and every challenge he faced. I was proud to know Ted Kennedy as a friend, and today my family and I mourn the passing of this big-hearted, unforgettable man."

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: Palin expressed her sympathies on Facebook:

"He believed in our country and fought passionately for his convictions," she wrote.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan: "Given our political differences, people are sometimes surprised by how close Ronnie and I have been to the Kennedy family. But Ronnie and Ted could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another," Reagan said in a written statement. "In recent years, Ted and I found our common ground in stem cell research, and I considered him an ally and a dear friend. I will miss him."