Sen. Kennedy Has Apparent Seizure
As Paul Kane and Shailagh Murray report on 44:
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy collapsed during a post-inaugural luncheon with Congress and President Obama, and apparently suffered a seizure.
Kennedy, who was diagnosed last year with brain cancer, was shaking and convulsing, according to Senate staff who were present at the luncheon. His head was moving back and forth, as a woman held him. His apparent seizure occurred moments after Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who was sitting at the same table with Kennedy, was taken from the room by staff. There is no word on Kennedy's condition, although Capitol security officials said Byrd appears to be fine.
Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) described hearing a cough when the Kennedy episode began, followed by a "cough, a silence throughout the room." Rockefeller said Obama "went over immediately to be helpful." He said the lights in the room were dimmed, as a large crowd gathered around Kennedy.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said he saw Kennedy as the Massachusetts Democrat was wheeled out to an ambulance, and said the senator flashed him "an Irish smile." Hatch told reporters, "I think he's going to be okay, but it's a tough thing."
Obama began his remarks to congressional leaders with somber words for his close friend, whose endorsement a year ago provided a huge lift, following Obama's defeat in the New Hampshire primary. Obama said of Kennedy that his "prayers are with him."
Obama noted that Kennedy was his most prominent early backer, and described how their families had bonded over the campaign.
"Right now a part of me is with him," Obama said. He added later: "This is a joyous time and this is a sobering time."
Obama departed the Capitol about 45 minutes late for his inaugural parade.
President Obama has begun his presidency with the world's ultimate power lunch, the post-swearing-in luncheon for new presidents hosted by congressional leaders in the Capitol's Statuary Hall.
Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, their families, Cabinet nominees, and top advisers are seated with top congressional leaders, two former presidents, three former vice presidents, two unsuccessful presidential nominees and other notable political figures, across 23 tables in a room ringed with statues dedicated to the nation's heroes.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, just welcomed more than 200 guests to a three-course meal: seafood stew, duck breast with cherry chutney or herb-roasted pheasant, and apple cinnamon sponge cake.
Feinstein is offering guests several different California-based wines.
The seating chart is a Who's Who of power players.
Seated at a head table with the Obamas and Bidens are Feinstein and her husband, Richard Blum; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her husband, Paul; and the House and Senate chaplains, Father Coughlin and the Rev. Barry Black.
Table 5 includes a combustible mix of figures -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who lost the presidential race to Obama; Rahm Emanuel, the new White House chief of staff; and Ken Salazar, the Interior secretary-designate.
Next to them, at Table 7, is a collection of family and the powerful: Michelle Obama's mother and brother, Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner, former vice president Al Gore and wife Tipper, as well as Chief Justice John Roberts.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), dressed in rodeo gear, paid his respects to Obama as soon as the guests started eating, bowing out early so he could get ready for his appearance in the inaugural parade in which he'll be riding a horse with a Montana float.
Media were then ushered out for the private portion of the meal, which is followed up with a presentation of gifts to the new president from Congress.
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