Kennedy the Missing Man in Health Care Fight

Ailing Massachusetts senator made health care reform a lifelong goal.

ByABC News
July 26, 2009, 10:19 PM

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2009— -- On one of Kennedy's rare returns to Washington, even the president takes notice, saying during one recent appearance in March, "It is thrilling to see you here, Teddy."

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., conceded Democrats would have to take more time and seek Republican support.

"Look, there are not the votes for Democrats to do this just on our side of the aisle," Conrad said. "It is not possible and perhaps not desirable either."

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who is guiding the bill through the Senate in Kennedy's absence, keeps in frequent touch. But Kennedy's influence is said to be limited by his increasing difficulty communicating.

In Kennedy's absence, his colleagues invoke his name, hoping also to borrow his legislative prowess.

"Sen. Kennedy, wrestling with his own health care crisis at this hour and has been unable to be with us," Dodd said in a speech Friday on the Senate floor.

"Senator Kennedy's presence was palpable," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the same day, discussing his colleague's effect on the health care reform debate.