Top Obama administration officials differed yesterday on whether the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy will help the push for universal health care, the cause of his life.
Vice President Joe Biden said Kennedy’s passing - and the outpouring of tributes - could break the partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill. “God willing, maybe his loss and all about him will be the catalyst to make people come around and begin to compromise to get something done,’’ Biden said in an interview aired yesterday on NBC’s “Today’’ show.
Several key Republicans, including last year’s presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, have argued in recent days that a health care deal would be closer if Kennedy had been in the Senate the last few months.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Kennedy’s death would “make things more difficult’’ on health care legislation, MSNBC reported. Asked about the possibility of naming the bill in Kennedy’s honor, she said that would be an appropriate tribute but added “it would be best to pass health care.’’
Asked yesterday about how President Obama views some liberal groups’ “win one for Kennedy’’ push, White House spokesman Bill Burton replied, “Our country lost a beloved leader, and the politics and implications of that are the last thing on the president’s mind right now.’’
Hearing of Kennedy’s death while on a weeklong congressional delegation tour of Iraq and Afghanistan, McGovern worked with aides to race home on commercial flights that have him hopscotching from Kabul to Kuwait to Germany to Boston.
“Once we knew the group itinerary wasn’t going to cut it, we had to find another way,’’ said McGovern’s spokesman, Michael Mershon.
As a child in Worcester, McGovern grew up with an easy familiarity with the Kennedys. After Robert Kennedy’s assassination, his mother insisted that he and his sisters pen condolence notes to Ethel Kennedy. In his political life, he has styled himself as a “Ted Kennedy Democrat.’’
“Both of them respected one another. And it was a very good friendship. It’s what there should be more of today,’’ Nancy Reagan said Wednesday night on her son Ron’s radio show on Air America.
She said she and Kennedy worked together for stem cell research. “I’ll miss him,’’ she said of “Teddy,’’ adding that the senator stayed in touch long past the 2004 death of her husband, with calls on her birthday and notes and cards on other special events.
“How sweet is that?’’ she said.
The silkscreen print by Warhol will be on view probably for several weeks, said Julia Zirinsky, gallery spokeswoman. The image of Kennedy’s 1980 presidential run is part of the museum’s permanent collection.