HELP Mark-Up: Who’s Missing From This Picture?

From the Senate HELP Committee mark-up of its health reform bill, Senate Caucus Room, Russell building

The Senate HELP Committee (also popularly called the Health Committee) wrapped up 60 hours of tinkering with its health reform plan today, capping it off with a 13-10 party line vote approving the plan.  (For more coverage, see here, here, and here. )

Happy HELP Committee/Photo by Alicia Ault

Happy HELP Committee/Photo by Alicia Ault

It was, as Acting Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) pointed out, yet another historic happening in the Caucus Room, which had hosted the inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic, the Army-McCarthy hearings, the Watergate hearings, and, the announcements by both John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy that they would seek the presidency.

That last fact was especially poignant, given that the Senate’s guiding voice on health reform, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), has been missing from action, because of his struggle with brain cancer.

At the day’s opening, Sen. Dodd noted that he’d just gotten off the phone with the Senator’s wife, Vicki Kennedy. And he said, as he choked up a bit, that he’d spoken earlier in the morning with the Senator.

Soon thereafter, a printed statement from Sen. Kennedy, with a Hyannis Port, Mass., dateline, appeared in the Caucus Room. In that statement, Sen. Kennedy praised the Committee’s work and mentioned the room’s special importance to him.

But his absence was notable, especially as the meeting drew to a close.  All the senators in attendance gathered for a group photograph of the historic moment.

Take a look: No Ted Kennedy. And, judging from Sen. Dodd’s demeanor when he discussed his long-time colleague and friend, we may not be seeing him any time soon.

At a stand-up with reporters after the vote, Sen. Dodd said, “We miss Ted Kennedy,” and then, added, “he is here in spirit,” followed by a rough clearing of his throat.

—Posted at 4:30 EDT by Alicia Ault at  (on Twitter @aliciaault)

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