Senators voice sympathy

Support for Kennedy comes from members of both parties

May 21, 2008|By Matthew Hay Brown | Matthew Hay Brown,Sun reporter

WASHINGTON - Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski calls Sen. Edward M. Kennedy "one of the Galahads."

When the Maryland Democrat arrived in the Senate two decades ago, Kennedy was ready to show her the ways of the upper chamber, to help her win a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee, to team up with her on several measures to improve women's health.

Yesterday, Mikulski called news of his cancer diagnosis "wrenching -- like a punch in the heart."

"Senator Kennedy is one of my oldest friends in Congress," Mikulski, who wiped tears from her eyes yesterday as she entered the Senate chamber to vote, said through a spokeswoman. "He's always been there when I needed him - I'm there for him now."

Senators were somber yesterday as word spread that the seizure Kennedy suffered over the weekend had been caused by a malignant brain tumor. While colleagues on both sides of the aisle called the Massachusetts Democrat a fighter, the prevailing mood was one of worry.

"It's times like this that you realize -- we realize -- that the Senate really is a family," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters. "We, as a family, are tremendously concerned about Senator Kennedy."

"He remains the single most effective member of the Senate if you want to get results," said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee for president. "He is not reluctant to share the credit. And he, when it fails, he's willing to take the blame."

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, for whom Kennedy has campaigned, called news of Kennedy's diagnosis "heartbreaking."

"Obviously, this is grim news," the Democratic presidential candidate told MSNBC. "The one thing I know about Ted Kennedy, though, he's a fighter. He's been fighting for over 40 years in the Senate on behalf of people in need. He's going to fight hard to battle this illness."

Obama described seeking Kennedy out when he arrived in Washington.

"I think it's fair to say that I might not be in the Senate had it not been for him because of the battles that he fought for voting rights and civil rights early in his career and then later on in his career," he said. "And so, you know, I immediately asked to meet with him. And not only did he understand how legislation passed, not only did he understand all the people in the Senate and give me advice on those fronts, but he also just turned out to be a wonderful person."

In a statement, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York said, "Ted Kennedy's courage and resolve are unmatched, and they have made him one of the greatest legislators in Senate history. Our thoughts are with him and Vicki and we are praying for a quick and full recovery."

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin serves with Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"He has been a mentor to me on civil rights and human rights issues, sharing his personal perspectives and intimate knowledge of the issues," the Maryland Democrat said. "Senator Kennedy has led our nation in its struggle to provide equal opportunity to all."

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings called Kennedy "a true American hero."

"For decades, Senator Kennedy has been a stalwart in our community, fighting for our children, for our seniors, and for the best interests of millions of families across the nation," the Baltimore Democrat said. "I have no doubt that as addresses his current health issue, he will tackle it with the same courage and determination that characterize his constant efforts to lift up the lives of all Americans."

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer called Kennedy "a giant in the Senate, a wonderful public servant and a great American."

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

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