U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, 1932-2009, who chaired the HELP Committee

Kennedy, HELP Chairman, Dies in Massachusetts

Tributes poured in today for U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who chaired the Labor Committee and left his mark on tobacco regulation, mental health parity, job training, food labeling, higher education grants, miners' safety, and access for disabled Americans.

U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, died late Tuesday at home in Hyannis Port, Mass., after battling brain cancer for months. Kennedy had served in the Senate since 1963 and had cast 15,235 votes there as of April 2, 2009, according to a chart from the Senate listing members who have cast more than 10,000 votes. The Senate is not in session this week but will return Sept. 8.

Who will become chairman of the HELP Committee is not yet clear. Next in line for the Democrats are Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who chairs the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and is unlikely to give up that post, and Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, also unlikely to cede his chairmanship of the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee because of agriculture's importance to his state. Then comes Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, who does not now hold a committee chairmanship. She does chair the HELP Subcommittee on Retirement and Aging.

Posted on Kennedy's Senate Web site are statements from other congressional leaders and from his family. The family's statement says, "We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it's hard to imagine any of them without him."

A 54-page PDF document posted on the site lists the late senator's legislative accomplishments. From introducing the Americans with Disabilities Act along with Harkin to giving the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products, which happened this year, it's a long list that touches airline deregulation, labeling of food allergens, mental health parity, funding for job training, student grants to attend college, attempts to encourage reporting of medical errors, and worker safety -- which is found on page 33 of the document. Kennedy's work in this area consists mainly of his support for increased OSHA penalties and backing of the MINER Act, which was enacted during the George W. Bush administration; that law stiffened MSHA penalties and increased miners' equipment, drills, and training for mine emergencies.

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