Greeted by a standing ovation from senators on both sides of the aisle, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) returned to the Senate floor on Wednesday for the first time since he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in May.
His return brought a victory to a stalled Medicare bill. The Medicare Improvements for Patients Providers Act (HR 6331) was approved yesterday by a veto proof margin in the Senate. Now the 10.6 percent cut to physicians’ payments, which went into effect on July 1st, will be reversed.
Wearing a dark suit and a wide grin, Kennedy gave a grand gesture during the Medicare roll-call vote. “Aye,” he said, to laughter (The Hill, June 9, 2008).
“Everyone recognizes that was an act of courage,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said. “I’ve been in the Senate for 27 years. I don’t quite remember another moment like it,” said Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT). “It was good to have the lion from Massachusetts back in the Senate.”
Kennedy’s presence Wednesday, along with the reality that Democrats had the votes lined up to move ahead, was enough to change the minds of 39 Republicans who previously voted against the bill. The bill was approved by a vote of 69-30, more than enough to override an anticipated presidential veto.