Vicki Kennedy urges Senate to pass reform

VICKI KENNEDY URGES SENATE TO PASS REFORM…. There was a point, about four months ago, when it seemed possible that Ted Kennedy’s death might spur support for health care reform. While his absence was felt throughout the year, his passing stood to provide “the final moral impetus to accomplish one of the primary causes to which he dedicated his life.”

One observer went so far as to argue that “it would be suicidal for the GOP to filibuster the culmination of the last Kennedy brother’s lifelong crusade…. I suspect the coverage of Kennedy’s death would silence healthcare reform critics and boost proponents in a way that netted at least a couple of wavering moderates.”

We now know, of course, that as the weeks elapsed, the political relevance of Kennedy’s passing faded. The talk of renaming the bill after the legendary senator, and getting this bill done to honor his legacy, was quickly drowned out by attacks against the initiative and prolonged threats of obstructionism.

To that end, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, Ted Kennedy’s widow, has a poignant op-ed in today’s Washington Post, urging her late husband’s colleagues not to back away from his life-long dream.

My late husband, Ted Kennedy, was passionate about health-care reform. It was the cause of his life. He believed that health care for all our citizens was a fundamental right, not a privilege, and that this year the stars — and competing interests — were finally aligned to allow our nation to move forward with fundamental reform. He believed that health-care reform was essential to the financial stability of our nation’s working families and of our economy as a whole.

Still, Ted knew that accomplishing reform would be difficult. If it were easy, he told me, it would have been done a long time ago. He predicted that as the Senate got closer to a vote, compromises would be necessary, coalitions would falter and many ardent supporters of reform would want to walk away. He hoped that they wouldn’t do so. He knew from experience, he told me, that this kind of opportunity to enact health-care reform wouldn’t arise again for a generation.

Vicki Kennedy’s piece doesn’t break new policy ground, but it includes a variety of subtle (and some not-so subtle) reminders to Ted Kennedy’s colleagues.

Ted Kennedy, she wrote, is “not here to urge us not to let this chance slip through our fingers. So I humbly ask his colleagues to finish the work of his life, the work of generations, to allow the vote to go forward and to pass health-care reform now.”

Notice the importance of “allow the vote to go forward” — it’s a simple and straightforward rebuke to the notion of GOP obstructionism.

It’s hard to say if the Kennedy op-ed will sway any wavering members, but it’s well timed and it certainly can’t hurt.