Video: Dodd on Kennedy’s ‘vitality’

  1. Transcript of: Dodd on Kennedy’s ‘vitality’

    MR. GREGORY: I want to bring in Chris Dodd right now, who joins us this morning from Connecticut . Another close friend and colleague, of course, of Senator Kennedy 's.

    And, Senator Dodd , welcome. One thing I want to ask you about is, again, something that was so poignant that came out of the funeral yesterday from his son. He said, "My dad taught me how to like Republicans , because he said they are just the kind of patriots, they love this country as much as I do and they're out there fighting the same kind of fight." And yet, your colleague and friend lamented in recent years that it became harder to work across the aisle, that bipartisanship was something that was fading away. What happened?

    SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT): Well, it's not about bipartisanship. I think that has its moments and its peaks and its valleys. It's civility in the process, I think more than anything else. There's always been bipartisanship or a lack of it back and forth. It's whether or not in the United States Senate you realize where you are and what body you serve, which Teddy understood so deeply. As John has just so eloquently said, he understood the rhythms of the place. We used to tease, David , with new members. They'd say, "Well, are we going to vote on Fridays or not?" And I'd say, "Listen, you find out what Ted Kennedy 's doing on Thursday night. If he's heading to Hyannis Port on Thursday night, there are going to be no votes on Friday. I don't care what the leadership tells you." Because Teddy understood exactly what was going to happen in that place better than most. And, and that idea of coming back now after September 8 , when we get back into session, if you want to, if you want to honor Teddy 's memory, it's to come back and sort of, as I said the other night, to sort of put behind us the blistering days of August and, and to enter the cool days of September and start acting like senators again where you respect each other. There are differences. You bring that partisanship to the table, but you work out your differences. That's what's we were elected to do, that's what Teddy understood adamantly about the place. It's why he was good at it, as John has again so well pointed out. He was a tactician, he was a master of the place, he understood it. And he also understood his colleagues, and he was willing to listen to them and he paid attention to them.

    MR. GREGORY: Right.

    SEN. DODD: I mean, they brought good ideas to the table. And if you do all of those things, then you can achieve the kind of results that Teddy achieved and that the Senate as a body has achieved historically.

    MR. GREGORY: And...

    SEN. DODD: When you abandon civility, then you're going to be in trouble.

    MR. GREGORY: And, Senator Dodd , you heard Maria Shriver talking about reinvigorating the debate over health care . How do you think that happens now after the, the hot days of August?

    SEN. DODD: Well, I think the president's got to decide in a sense, and he has, and to step up and really frame this again for us. The leadership can do it. Obviously Nancy Pelosi , Harry Reid I think have worked hard. I know Max Baucus is working hard with John on the Finance

    Committee . And we've put a bill, a bill together back in July, as you know, David , Teddy 's committee, which I was asked to chair temporarily for him. A good bill, by the way. It had -- we considered 300 amendments, took 161 Republican amendments as part of that effort. Most of them technical, I acknowledge, but many of them are substantive. That bill has been now sitting there. We're ready to go and work on that along with the Finance Committee and to move forward. And that's what needs to happen here. And my belief is that if we can get these bills together and sit down with each other, we can produce a strong, vibrant, vitally needed national healthcare reform legislation of accessibility, of course, quality and affordability.

    MR. GREGORY: I want to get a final thought from both of you. First from you, Senator Dodd . As you sit here this morning, after all the emotion of the past week, what is the meaning of Senator Kennedy , the man and, and the legislator, that you're thinking about this morning?

    SEN. DODD: Well, John , I think, said it very well. I think, you know, one of the things that we didn't -- it's so difficult. I mean, Friday night, what, John and I had eight or 10 minutes . How do you capture 30 years of friendship in, in eight or 10 minutes ? But his ability to overcome adversity was stunning to me. I mean, I just -- what he went through, and to come back day after day, time after time. He used to say, by the way, you know, with all of our difficulties, he'd say, "Whatever you're worried about today, I promise you, a year from today you won't remember what it is. You'll worry about something else a year from now, but you won't worry about this." And he brought that kind of vitality to his life that I think is critical for every human being , I don't care what you're doing. Maria said it well, and that is each and every one of us have to sort of get up every day and confront your life as it is and make the best of it and be something larger than yourself, make a contribution. And that's Teddy 's message more than anything else, I think.

updated 8/30/2009 12:46:37 PM ET 2009-08-30T16:46:37

Democratic lawmakers said Sunday the best way for Congress to honor the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is to set aside the heated rhetoric of the health care debate and pass a plan that cuts costs and extends coverage.

A key Republican, however, said he doubts any Democrats in Congress have the force of personality to pull it off.

Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd said lawmakers who want to honor Kennedy should "put behind us the blistering days of August, enter the cool days of September, and start acting like senators again."

Congress returns from a monthlong break next week no closer to passing a health care plan than when lawmakers left town. During the break, Democratic members of Congress have faced heated town hall gatherings, with many of those attending hurling insults over Democratic plans to overhaul the U.S. health care system, which does not provide universal care.

Dodd said lawmakers who respect each others' opinions and are civil in their disagreements are more likely to reach legislative compromises.

"If you do all of those things, then you can achieve the kind of results that Teddy achieved and that the Senate as a body has achieved historically," Dodd said. "If you abandon civility, then you're going to be in trouble."

Dodd and other lawmakers close to Kennedy appeared on the Sunday morning news shows to remember the Massachusetts senator a day after his funeral Mass in Boston and his burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Northern Virginia.

Hatch: Kennedy's absence hurts
Sen. Orrin Hatch said Kennedy's absence hurts the chances of Congress passing a health care plan. Hatch, a conservative Republican, and Kennedy, a liberal Democrat, often differed on issues, but they were close friends who worked together on legislation.

"There is no other Democrat who could carry the base of the Democratic Party and get them to do what really has to be done in a compromise situation," Hatch said. "He was able to acknowledge that he couldn't get everything he wanted through, but if he worked with us, he could get some things that were good. And, of course, I had to do the same."

Committees in both the House of Representatives and Senate have approved plans aimed at extending health coverage to the nearly 50 million Americas who lack it. But there is no consensus on how to pay for an overhaul that could cost $1 trillion over the next decade. President Barack Obama has said he would not sign a bill that adds to the growing national debt.

Dodd appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press," Hatch appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" and ABC's "This Week." Both appeared on CNN's "State of the Union."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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