At the top of the 8AM ET hour of Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Russ Mitchell wondered if Ted Kennedy’s death could "spur Congress to pass a health care reform bill?" Correspondent Nancy Cordes answered that question: "Kennedy’s death, in a way, gives new life to health care legislation, which has really taken a beating the past few weeks at town halls across the country."
Cordes went on to declare: "Supporters of health care reform say they’re going to fight even harder to achieve Kennedy’s dying wish, universal healthcare. With Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia even suggesting that the legislation be named after the late great lawmaker."
Earlier on the show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez interviewed Utah Senator and Kennedy friend Orrin Hatch, and asked about the "dying wish" of the Massachusetts Senator: "I’d be willing to bet that he would be smiling down on the capital if Republicans and Democrats could finally compromise to fulfill his dream of health care reform. Do you think that Senator Kennedy’s passing could be the impetus that could finally make that happen, or do you think that the only bridge builder who could have done that is gone now?"
Here is a full transcript of Cordes’s report:
RUSS MITCHELL: Senator Ted Kennedy will be buried Saturday afternoon alongside his brothers at Arlington National Cemetery. As Maggie pointed out, today his body will be moved to Boston, where it will lie in repose at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. A memorial service will be held Friday evening. A funeral mass will be held at a Boston church on Saturday. President Obama will deliver a eulogy. And of course, one of Kennedy’s passions was health care. Could his death, in fact, spur Congress to pass a health care reform bill? CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes has more from Washington. Nancy, good morning.
NANCY CORDES: Good morning, Russ. Kennedy’s death, in a way, gives new life to health care legislation, which has really taken a beating the past few weeks at town halls across the country. Supporters of health care reform say they’re going to fight even harder to achieve Kennedy’s dying wish, universal healthcare. With Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia even suggesting that the legislation be named after the late great lawmaker.
TED KENNEDY: We’ve got a real health crisis.
CORDES: For four decades, Senator Ted Kennedy fought to provide what he saw as a right for all Americans, health care. In 1970, Kennedy introduced the first universal health care bill. And years later he would refer to universal healthcare as quote ‘the cause of my life.’
KENNEDY: We will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American – north, south, east, west, young, old – will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.
CORDES: Kennedy is credited with a long list of health care accomplishments, championing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, drafting legislation creating HMOs, and helping to pass Medicaid and Medicare.
BILL FRIST: There is nobody in the United States Senate who has had a louder voice and a more effective voice on health care issues.
CORDES: His crusade, in many ways, was personal. The father of three watched two of his children battle cancer. But the battle he fought against a malignant brain tumor that ultimately took his life kept him from personally spearheading the current health care reform effort.
TOM DASCHLE: I have little doubt that we’d be even farther along. There is something about Ted Kennedy’s ability to bring sides together, to keep them at the table, to keep pushing and urging and cajoling and persuading and ultimately getting across the line.
CORDES: Now that he’s gone, Senator Kennedy’s health reform allies say they plan to work even harder to get a bill passed.
CHRIS DODD: I’m dedicated to it, and in his memory, I will do everything I can as long as I can stand in the United States Senate.
CORDES: One problem, Democrats and Republicans are as divided as ever over health care reform, and the lawmaker with the greatest flair for finding compromise is no longer with us. Russ.
RUSS MITCHELL: Nancy Cordes in Washington. Thank you very much.
Here is a full transcript of Rodriguez’s interview with Hatch:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Already the tributes have been pouring in from friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Here’s some of what they had to say about Ted Kennedy.
CHRIS DODD: The country lost a great advocate. There are millions of people who counted on this guy every day to stand up for them. For me, I lost my best friend in the Senate, just a great friend.
JOE BIDEN: For 36 years I had the privilege of going to work every day and literally, not figuratively, sitting next to him and being a witness to history. Every day I was with him, he restored my sense of idealism and my faith in the possibilities of what this country could do.
So many of his – so many of his foes embraced him. Because they know he made them bigger.
RODRIGUEZ: Joining me now from Washington is Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, a political rival but very close friend of Senator Ted Kennedy. Good morning to you, Senator Hatch.
ORRIN HATCH: Well, good morning.
RODRIGUEZ: Your words and your tributes over the last 24 hours, I have to say, have been among the most emotional that I’ve heard from anyone. How is it that you came to love and respect someone that, as you put it, ‘has often been not only a stone in the road,’ for you and your proposals, ‘but a boulder’?
HATCH: Well, you know, when I came to the Senate, I came to fight Ted Kennedy, and we’ve had fights all these years, but we’ve always been able to resolve them in the end. And he was open to resolving and for good resolutions. And that’s what made him a great senator. And when he made up his mind to support something, he would support it all the way, even though it meant sometimes voting down Democrat amendments.
RODRIGUEZ: But he also had this amazing power to compromise when it was for the good of all. What do you think was that, that magic that he possessed that so many other senators seem to lack?
HATCH: Well, he loved the Senate. He loved the way it was run. He loved the combat – day in, day out combat. He loved being the leading liberal in the Senate. He had a tremendous liberal staff all the time. I really admire his staff even to this day. And he attracted the top people. He would get professors from Harvard and Boston University and other – MIT – and other places, who loved to work with him. And frankly, he was always – he had a lively mind. He was willing to work hard. There were a lot of things that were just great about him. And when you got into a combat with him, it was a knockdown, drag out battle. And when it was over, he’d be coming over and throwing his arms around you and say, ‘did I do all right?’ You know, or ‘how did you like that?’ And I’d always get a big kick out of it. We – we fought each other pretty hard, but we also came together in many, many ways over a lot of landmark legislation that today is helping people all over the country.
RODRIGUEZ: I’d be willing to bet that he would be smiling down on the capital if Republicans and Democrats could finally compromise to fulfill his dream of health care reform. Do you think that Senator Kennedy’s passing could be the impetus that could finally make that happen, or do you think that the only bridge builder who could have done that is gone now?
HATCH: Well, I hope that his passing would help us to get together, but I have to say that the administration and the Democrats in the Senate, and in the House especially, are demanding some terms that I don’t think Republicans can support. I think they’d be very detrimental to the country. But if they’re open and they really want to get a health care bill done, You know, I’d like nothing better than to have a bipartisan bill that will work in the best interests for the American people and – and get it done. But unfortunately, we’ve come a long way. They’re pushing things that just really would push us towards socialized medicine and Republicans just can’t take that. We could do it, though. We could do it if there was – there were open arms to do it and if the President would weigh in and work with some of us, I think we could do it. But it’s going to have to change dramatically from what they’re trying to put through now.
RODRIGUEZ: Alright, Senator Hatch, thank you so much. And my condolences for the loss of your friend.
HATCH: Well, thank you so much and God bless – God bless the Kennedy family, and especially Vicki.
RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Senator.