Senator Kennedy returns to Congress for key vote
The cancer-stricken Democratic senator Edward Kennedy made a dramatic return to Congress today, providing the boost needed to pass a bill securing healthcare coverage for senior citizens.
Kennedy, 76, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in May after suffering a seizure at his home on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The youngest brother of John and Robert F Kennedy, a revered figure in US politics, was not expected to return to Washington until September.
But Kennedy made an unexpected appearance on Capitol Hill as Democrats prepared to vote on a plan that shores up Medicare, the country's government-run programme for senior citizens' healthcare.
Doctors participating in Medicare were hit with a reimbursement cut of more than 10% last week, jeopardising their ability to treat older patients. The bill passed by the Senate today would reverse that cut, while slicing controversial incentives created by George Bush for private insurance companies that participate in Medicare.
Kennedy's dramatic return gave Democrats the impetus they needed to free Medicare legislation from gridlock. It had received 59 votes on an earlier test, one short of the 60 needed to advance. Kennedy made 60, and when Republicans saw the outcome was sealed, several of them joined Democrats to pad the margin. The House already has overwhelmingly approved the measure.