The movement for equality and to end poverty lost a great champion with the death of Senator Edward Kennedy. In the popular press, much has been made of his ability to create unlikely coalitions of liberals and conservatives to get legislation passed. But his pragmatic skills, as formidable as they were, were second to a deep commitment to a progressive agenda. Every day the legislation he championed makes a difference in the lives of all Americans, but especially those living in poverty. The effect of his work is meaningful and lasting. Among those accomplishments that most affect our clients are the following:
Health Care: From the beginning of his career in the Senate he worked to ensure that persons in poverty had access to health care. In 1966, he sponsored legislation to create a nation-wide network of community health clinics, he was a sponsor of the Ryan White CARE Act that provided critical funding for HIV/AIDS services, he played a critical role in the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Programs and he was the author of the health care portability provisions of HIPPA that have allowed hundreds of thousands to be covered despite pre-existing conditions.
Civil Rights: Senator Kennedy worked for the passage of Title IX that opened up school sponsored sports to girls, was a sponsor of the Family and Medical Leave Act and a supporter of the Voting Rights Act and an important player in the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Immigration: Senator Kennedy has consistently fought for the fair and decent treatment of immigrants. In 1968 he worked for legislation to create bi-lingual education and fought for immigration reform ever since.
Equal Justice: He was an early and consistent supporter of the creation of the Legal Services Corporation and of adequate funding for legal assistance for those in poverty.
Workers: He fought for an increased minimum wage, strong laws to assist unionization and the right to a safe workplace.
He gave voice to the needs and aspirations of the millions who are so often left out of the debate. His voice will be missed.