Kennedy, Back From Surgery, Hits Ground Running
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) is back in the chamber today after a 2 1/2-week recuperation from a blocked artery surgery, and boy does he want everyone to know he's back.
In the span of a few hours, Kennedy joined with House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) in releasing a report from the General Accounting Office on the impact global trade on public health. Then he introduced a bill, along with Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), to provide better mental health benefits to people caught up in the criminal justice system.
He topped off the first half day by delivering a nearly 3,400-word treatise on the Senate floor, a speech that touched on pretty much every topic of concern to the Senate during his recovery from the artery surgery. He ranged from the vetoed $35 billion expansion to the state Children's Health Insurance Program to spending on the Iraq war to reauthorizing funding for Amtrak to President Bush's energy policy to federal benefits for big oil companies. Oh, and he found time to savor the World Series sweep by his beloved Boston Red Sox.
Forgive Capitol Briefing for a momentary political diagnosis here - since I am totally unqualified to render a medical diagnosis - but it appears that Kennedy is definitely trying to convey a specific message: He's back, he's fine and healthy, and he's fully conversant in what's been going on in the world of politics (and baseball).
After his surgery Oct. 12, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston told reporters in a conference call that it was "routine" and it was a "success", telling us he would need a week to recover. Kennedy, 75, actually missed a full two week's worth of votes while he recovered.
While his doctors contended that the senator has no greater long-term health issues than most other 70-something males, they're constantly watching his weight and cholesterol levels. Concrern in Boston over Kennedy's health is something akin to concern in England over the well-being of Queen Elizabeth II and the concern in Rome over the Pope.
The Kennedy family is New England's version of royalty. Every hiccup by the man referred to by his aides as simply "The Senator" - as if the other 99 don't matter -- leads to speculation that something deeper is amiss and questions about the line of succession for a seat that has been in Kennedy-family hands for 53 of the last 55 years.
So, as if to signal to everyone on Capitol Hill and back home in Boston that things are OK, Kennedy hit the ground running this morning, covering more topics by noon - trade, health, war, public transit, criminal justice, and the national pastime - than most senators cover in a full week on the job.
"It's been a wonderful year for baseball in Boston. We're all enormously grateful to the whole team for such an inspiring and exciting season," Kennedy said, wrapping up his lengthy floor speech. "And we look forward to another great year in 2008."
Capitol Briefing looks forward to Kennedy's encore this afternoon and the rest of this week.
October 30, 2007; 2:43 PM ET
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