Son: Sen. Kennedy is "Very Frustrated" to be Absent During Health Debate

Rep. Patrick Kennedy says his father has been "very frustrated" to be absent.

ByABC News
August 21, 2009, 6:09 PM

August 21, 2009— -- PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Rep. Patrick Kennedy said Friday thathis father, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, has been "veryfrustrated" to be absent from Washington during the debate overhealth care reform.

Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat, told The Associated Press thathis father, who has made health care a core issue during his 47years in the Senate, has a unique ability to read his colleaguesand negotiate compromises.

"Every other senator in that Senate knows that there have beenvery few senators like Ted Kennedy over the years that can bringboth sides together and hammer out a deal that can then go to thepresident," said the younger Kennedy, who called his father a"master legislator" and statesman.

The 77-year-old Massachusetts senator was diagnosed with amalignant brain tumor in May 2008. He underwent a risky, aggressivesurgery shortly after his diagnosis, but since then has beenconvalescing at his homes in Washington and Hyannis Port, as wellas a rental property in Florida.

Earlier this week, Kennedy sent a letter to Massachusettsleaders asking that they change state law to allow someone to bequickly appointed to his seat in Congress "should a vacancyoccur," though aides said there has been no material change to hiscondition.

Patrick Kennedy did not discuss his father's health other thanto say, "I love being with him and all the time that I've beengiven to be with him. These last several months to a year have justbeen a blessing to me and my family."

But he said it's been "very frustrating" for his father tomiss a debate that he's helped lead for many years and to watchDemocrats and Republicans struggle for compromise. Still, thesenator has followed the debate from afar, prodding his colleaguesto pass reforms in a recent essay in Newsweek magazine.

"My dad has the principle of ensuring the best possible dealfor the American people, and he also has the practicality to knowwhat can be accomplished in a given political environment,"Patrick Kennedy said. "He is the master legislator."

Patrick Kennedy plans a health care forum on Sept. 3.

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