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Kennedy Makes Brief Appearance for Stimulus Vote

By Ben Pershing

The economic stimulus measure cleared a key procedural hurdle tonight, as the Senate voted, 61-36, to invoke cloture and pave the way for a vote on final passage tomorrow. The bill cleared the 60-vote requirement to proceed with one to spare, and one of those "aye" votes came from ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

Kennedy, who has been undergoing treatment for brain cancer since being diagnosed with the disease nine months ago, was last seen in the Capitol on Inauguration Day. He collapsed during a post-swearing-in luncheon and suffered from a seizure, prompting much concern among his colleagues. His doctors later released a statement saying his collapse was brought on by "simple fatigue."

The Massachusetts senator did not appear fatigued tonight. He walked into the Senate chamber alongside Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) a few minutes after the vote began. Kennedy moved deliberately but with purpose, leaning on a cane as he stopped to chat amiably with Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) as well as Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Kennedy signaled his "aye" vote and shared a laugh with a Senate clerk, then walked quickly out of the chamber about a minute after he entered. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) followed him out the door, presumably to say hello.

"I'm doing well," Kennedy told reporters after exiting on his way into the chamber, according to his office. "Doing well, looking forward to this period of time. 600,000 jobs have been lost in the last month and hundreds of thousands of American families have been hurt by the failure of taking action on the health of the American families. And it's time that we take action now. I think President Obama has demonstrated his strong commitment to making progress on these important issues. And I look forward to being a part of the team."

It turns out that Kennedy's vote was the 61st in favor of proceeding, not the 60th, and his presence was not a secret. So Kennedy's return was not quite as consequential as his appearance in the chamber last July to vote to proceed on a Medicare bill.

But his arrival today was one of the few eagerly awaited moments of a vote that otherwise went exactly as predicted. Everyone who had been expected to vote for the compromise stimulus measure voted for it, and everyone expected to vote no did so. Every Democrat and both the chamber's Independents voted "aye," along with Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Arlen Specter (Pa.). The only Senators who did not record votes were Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who is Obama's choice for Commerce secretary, and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

UPDATE 8:15 p.m. ET: Where was Cornyn tonight? His spokesman, Kevin McLaughlin would say only that "he was in New York for long-standing commitments" and that Cornyn has made his opposition to the measure clear. We don't know exactly what he was doing in New York, but it's worth remembering that Cornyn chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee and so spends a lot of time raising money.

By Ben Pershing  |  February 9, 2009; 6:45 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

I have already notified my Senators and Congressman that they had better work with Obama and support the stimulus or lose my vote in the next election. (How easy they forget that they work for us!)
I am soooo tired of politicians telling us what they think is best when they have been wrong for the last 8 years.
They had better get busy and help Obama get this country back on track or look for a new job!

Posted by: abby0802 | February 9, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

abby0802:

I have already notified my Senators and Congressman that they had better not support the spending or lose my vote in the next election. (How easy they forget that it is our money!)
I am soooo tired of politicians telling us what they think is best when they have taken more and more of my money for the last 8 years, increasing the size of Govermnet at every turn. when do we stop this madness?

They had better get busy and find a way to really stimulate the economy, not just redistribute the money whether that is with Mr. Obama or against him.

(A question for you. If 50% of my income is not enough to run the Government, what do you think is a fair number? I want to do the patriotic thing here.)

Posted by: CARealist | February 9, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

to CARealist: You must make a LOT of $$ if you're in the 50% tax bracket and the max. is 35% anyway, but consider this - if you don't have a job at all, it won't matter what your bracket is becaause 50% of 0 is 0.

Posted by: sbmerk | February 9, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

I think it's strange that the Republicans had no problem voting for $$ to fund Bush's pointless war but can't fund helping their fellow Americans.

Posted by: sbmerk | February 9, 2009 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Is this how we want the future of nations welfare handle, just a quick fly in from the cape and a click of the "aye " button, and shazam..

this is not a Popeye cartoon, and we are not a newborn nation. This nation was founded on the shoulders of the ones who fought for the right for us to hold up our hands, and vote,

As a Senator, and I realize Sen... Kennedy is of ill health, but I also know he is not alone when it comes to flying for a vote or two, does the name Barack Obama remind you of the less than 50% votes he cast. and in the 50% more than 50% were "present" votes.... anyway I think is unspeakable to cause such a vote that an ailing man must drive or fly or snap his finger, to use his finger to make the 61st vote.

I want my neighbors vote back... I didn't vote for Barack, so I can speak freely of the"winter of my discontent".

Posted by: finnperkins | February 9, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Politicians have been wrong for longer than 8 years. but keep in mind we got into this mess not because of politicians, but because of greedy bankers and investors who are scared of their own shadow.

It is interesting to note that 93% of our workforce is employed and working and yet we are in a crisis. And the government is claiming that it needs to throw enough money into the economic system to buy most of us a pretty nice home.

What does that say about us?

Posted by: res0bbts | February 9, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

I think we all wanted a hunk of someone's behind when we saw the world trade center fall. You can't lay that all on the Republicans. It wasn't pointless that day. Time and distance make us all a lot smarter, but at the wrong time.

Posted by: res0bbts | February 9, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Pardon an ole man .. one who can remember - somewhat - the death of FDR - My view of Republicans is that they should be outlawed. They care NOTHING about the working man - If you are not in the top 10% you are nothing. The only thing they have done worthwhile since the death of Lincoln is to start the freeway system (and that republican was a converted Democrat.). All other actions include Grants rape of America to Bush2's rape of America and everything bad inbetween - including a depression and deregulation by their class c acting cowboy president that caused this "recession"... and don't tell me about their seating of conservative judges to rid this country of abortion - which is a red herring from the devils themselves to make themselves (republicans) look good - they could care less about aborted babies ... as long as they can get their thumbs on the working people and the keys to the American treasure.

Posted by: arguillory1 | February 10, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse


As a state senator, Barack Obama did vote "present", but only 3% of the time, not over 50%. As a US Senator, his attendance and voting record was strong, until he began to run for president. And during the campaign, he voted far more than McCain, despite being in a contested primary for far longer.

Don't make stuff up to support your point.

As for Senator Kennedy "flying in from the Cape" for a few votes, I think you tried to apologize for that in your own response. Senator Kennedy will not face another election, and he is still committed to doing what he can to put the country back on track. As for other legislators, you are free to vote yours out of office at the next opportunity.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | February 10, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

One poster wants Republicans outlawed so if that happened the slaughter of 52 million Americans in the womb since 1973 will continue unabated. The loss of these 52 million people means labor shortages, no taxes paid to keep Social security and medicare solvent. Every action has a consequence.

Posted by: mascmen7 | February 10, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

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