In 1968, his last surviving brother, Robert, was assassinated as well during his bid to be nominated as the Democratic candidate for the presidency. Kennedy delivered a very emotional eulogy at Robert's funeral. After the shock from this event wore off, Kennedy was looked upon as a likely future presidential candidate. For about a year, the Democratic establishment began to focus attention on him as the new "carrier of the torch" for the Kennedys and the party. The 1993 book The Last Brother by Joe McGinniss portrayed Kennedy as particularly devastated by the death of Robert, in that Ted was closer to Robert than any other member of the Kennedy family.
In January 1969, Kennedy defeated Louisiana Senator Russell B. Long to become Senate Majority Whip. He would serve as Whip until January 1971, when he was defeated by Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
The Chappaquiddick incident refers to the circumstances surrounding the 1969 death of Mary Jo Kopechne, a campaign worker for Senator Kennedy. Kopechne was killed when the Senator drove his mother's vehicle off of a bridge and into a channel after a party at Chappaquiddick Island, Martha's Vineyard.
Kennedy deflected supporters who urged him to run for President in 1972 and 1976 by citing family concerns, in light of the fact of his brothers' assassinations. He finally threw his hat into the ring for the Democratic nomination in the 1980 presidential election by launching an unusual, insurgent campaign against the sitting president, Jimmy Carter, a member of his own party. Despite much early support, his bid was ultimately unsuccessful. Carter was highly unpopular at the time of Kennedy's announcement, and Kennedy could have expected to do well against the incumbent president. But the Iran hostage crisis gave President Carter a large boost in the polls that lasted for several months. The upswing in Carter's popularity knocked the wind out of Kennedy's candidacy, which was predicated on dislodging an unpopular president. In addition, the Chappaquiddick incident still dogged the senator, and his opponents often invoked the highly recognizable melody of Simon & Garfunkel's 1970 hit song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to remind voters of the tragedy and scandal. Kennedy's campaign received substantial negative press from what pundits criticized as a rambling response to the question "Why do you want to be President?" Kennedy won 10 presidential primaries against Carter, who won 24. Eventually, he bowed out of the race, but delivered a rousing speech before the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York City that many consider to be one of his finest moments.
Since his presidential bid, Kennedy has become one of the most recognizable and influential members of the party. In 2004, Kennedy was involved in the failed presidential bid of his fellow Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, speaking for Kerry multiple times and lending his chief of staff, Mary Beth Cahill, to the Kerry campaign. Kennedy stated that he would have supported Kerry should he have chosen to run for president in 2008.
In April 2006, Kennedy was selected by Time as one of "America's 10 Best Senators"; the magazine noted that he had "amassed a titanic record of legislation affecting the lives of virtually every man, woman and child in the country" and that "by the late 1990s, the liberal icon had become such a prodigious cross-aisle dealer that Republican leaders began pressuring party colleagues not to sponsor bills with him".
As of 2006, Kennedy is the second-longest serving current senator, only behind Robert Byrd. Kennedy won an eighth full term (and ninth overall term) in 2006. If he serves out his full six-year term, he will have served in the U.S. Senate for fifty years.
Currently, Senator Kennedy is the chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. As chairman, he raised the minimum wage by $2.10 to $7.25 on February 1, 2007. The bill also included some controversial tax cuts for small businesses and higher taxes for many $1 million-plus executives. Kennedy was quoted as saying, "Passing this wage hike represents a small, but necessary step to help lift America's working poor out of the ditches of poverty and onto the road toward economic prosperity."
Kennedy was a major player in the bipartisan team that wrote the controversial No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which, according to both Kennedy and President Bush, was a compromise. He then worked to get it passed in a Republican controlled Congress, despite the opposition of members from both parties.
Although he has been a staunch advocate of abortion rights for the past 30 years, Kennedy only adopted this position after Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. Prior to that, he held a pro-life position. A letter to a constituent, dated August 3, 1971 opposes "the legalization of abortion on demand" saying that it "is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life". Kennedy's reversal on this issue after Roe v. Wade became a source of continuing dispute between him and the Roman Catholic Church to which he belongs. In 1987, Kennedy delivered an impassioned speech condemning Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork as a "right-wing extremist" and warning that "Robert Bork's America" would be one marked by back alley abortions and other backward practices. Kennedy's strong opposition to Bork's nomination is commonly seen as a prominent factor in the Senate's rejection of Bork's candidacy. Similar concerns have been raised in more recent Supreme Court nominations, as well; it is possible that Kennedy's opposition to Bork set a precedent. In recent years, he has argued that much of the debate over abortion is a false dichotomy. Speaking at the National Press Club in 2005, he remarked, "Surely, we can all agree that abortion should be rare, and that we should do all we can to help women avoid the need to face that decision."
Ted Kennedy was a strong supporter of the 1965 Hart-Celler Act — signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson — which dramatically changed US immigration policy. "The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs." Kennedy is now the chair of the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship, and remains a strong advocate for immigrants, both documented and undocumented.
This legislation replaced the Immigration Act of 1924, which favored immigrants from northern and western Europe. Proponents of the 1965 bill argued that immigration laws and quotas were discriminatory, and that American immigration policy should accept people not on the basis of their nationality. This also abolished the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
Kennedy subsequently took a lead role in several other would-be immigration measures, including the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act (S. 1033) ("McCain-Kennedy") in 2005 and the Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (an elaborate but controversial bipartisan compromise worked out with President George W. Bush).
Ted Kennedy has been a staunch supporter of gun control initiatives. He was one of the 16 senators who voted against the Vitter Amendment.
Ted Kennedy has generally maintained a record in favor of alternative energy sources and against additional Alaska oil drilling, as seen in his voting record on energy policy. However, he and fellow Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, opposes the Cape Wind energy project which would be visible from his family's home on the shore of Cape Cod.
Though a supporter of the American-led 2001 overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, Kennedy has been a vocal critic of the American-led 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. He has also been a harsh critic of the way the invasion of Iraq was planned and conducted by the Bush administration. Kennedy also has said that the best vote he had ever cast in the Senate was his vote against giving President Bush the authority to use force against Iraq.
On September 27, 2004, Kennedy made a speech on the Senate floor regarding the war in Iraq, just prior to the 2004 U.S. Presidential election.
In early 2007, just prior to President Bush's announcement that he would initiate a troop surge in Iraq, Senator Kennedy made a speech at the National Press Club opposing it. Kennedy was the first Senator in the 110th Congress to propose legislation opposing the President's troop surge.
Kennedy has been outspoken in his views about Northern Ireland's constitutional question. In October 1971, he called for the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland, and for all political participants there to begin talks on creating a United Ireland.
In the Spring of 2005 however, Kennedy publicly snubbed Gerry Adams by cancelling a previously-arranged meeting. This decision was a direct result of the Northern Bank robbery in December 2004, and the murder of Robert McCartney the following month., citing the IRA's "ongoing criminal activity and contempt for the rule of law."
From 2001 to 2003, Kennedy led a forty-five member all Democrat Senate filibuster to block the appointment of former assistant solicitor general Miguel Estrada to the United States court of appeals. When Estrada withdrew his nomination, Kennedy proclaimed it was a "a victory for the Constitution".
Kennedy is one of only five senators who have publicly announced support for same-sex marriage. Kennedy's home state of Massachusetts is the only state in the United States within which same-sex marriage is legal.
|2006 United States Senate election, Massachusetts|
|Democratic||Edward Kennedy (incumbent)||1,497,304||69.46%||-3.15%|
2000 Massachusetts United States Senatorial Election
|Ted Kennedy (D) (inc.) 73%|
|Jack E. Robinson III (R) 13%|
|Carla Howell (Lib.) 11.9%|
1994 Massachusetts United States Senatorial Election
|Ted Kennedy (D) (inc.) 58%|
|Mitt Romney (R) 41%|
1988 Massachusetts United States Senatorial Election
|Ted Kennedy (D) (inc.) 65.6%|
|Joseph D. Malone (R) 34.4%|
1982 Massachusetts United States Senatorial Election
|Ted Kennedy (D) (inc.) 60.8%|
|Raymond Shamie (R) 38.3%|
1976 Massachusetts United States Senatorial Election
|Ted Kennedy (D) (inc.) 69.3%|
|Michael Robertson (R) 29%|
1970 Massachusetts United States Senatorial Election
|Ted Kennedy (D) (inc.) 61.2%|
|Josiah A. Spaulding (R) 37%|
1964 Massachusetts United States Senatorial Election
|Ted Kennedy (D) (inc.) 74.3%|
|Howard Whitmore, Jr. (R) 25.4%|
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