Minnesota political leaders reflect on Kennedyby Phil Picardi, Minnesota Public Radio,
Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Minnesota lawmakers past and present praised Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts senator who died Tuesday of brain cancer, as a collaborator and an inspirational figure.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Kennedy's passion for a cause, his country and his love for the Senate made her want to "go to work every day."
Sen. Al Franken said Kennedy was "universally beloved" in the Senate. Former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman said Kennedy was "one of the great leaders in the United States Senate."
Former Republican Sen. Dave Durenberger described Kennedy as someone who "loved what he did."
And former senator and Vice President Walter Mondale said Kennedy was one of America's "most important voices for social justice."
"Despite his privileged background, Ted would always stand up for those who were left behind, against racial discrimination, for better education and health care," Mondale said in a statement. "Whatever was needed, Ted was there to fight for it. I don't believe we have had anybody quite like him, for that long, in these times, in our nation's history. It is a terrible loss."
Klobuchar said she values the two years she served with Kennedy, saying she looked up to him as a mentor. She said Kennedy was an inspiration to many, who like herself, were new on Capitol Hill. And she recalled Kennedy's advice when she first joined the Senate in January 2007.
"'Work with people on the other side of the aisle. Get to know them,'" she remembered the senator telling her. "And people wouldn't think that. Immediately, when you think of Ted Kennedy, the liberal lion, you think of him as partisan, standing up for his causes. But he had this bipartisan pragmatism that really moved legislation in the Senate."
Franken said Kennedy's absence has been a "major loss" as the health care debate has unfolded in the Senate. Franken said the push for universal health care was the cause of Kennedy's life.
"His inspiration will be there, maybe in a bigger way," Franken said. "Who knows, maybe it'll be called the Kennedy bill."
Former Sen. Coleman said he was motivated to join public service "because of the passion of John and Bobby Kennedy," Sen. Kennedy's brothers.
"While we disagreed on many issues, I was proud to call him a friend and colleague," said Coleman in a statement. "He was the best at figuring out how to get something done and would work to find common ground, without abandoning his principles. Our nation would be better served if both conservatives and liberals followed that path. I will miss him."
Former Sen. David Durenberger of Minnesota, who served with Kennedy from 1978 to 1994, said he respected Kennedy a great deal.
"He loved what he did," Durenberger told Minnesota Public Radio News. "He respected anybody who shared that affection for reform. So you could disagree with him, you could even get quite contentious, and he'd just give you a big smile and find another way to work the issue."
Durenberger, who now lives in St. Paul, described Kennedy as one of the two most enjoyable people he got to work with in the Senate -- and the one he respected the most.
He said one of Kennedy's biggest strengths was his unfaltering commitment to an issue, as well as his good sense of humor.
"He would push you right to the end of a session, or right to the end of a markup, and if you continue to say no, he would say 'OK, I respect that. Let's try that again next year,'" Durenberger said. "That's why I enjoyed working with him so much."
Kennedy will lie in repose at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston before his funeral at a city church, a Democratic source familiar with the planning told The Associated Press.
Kennedy is to be buried afterward at Arlington National Cemetery near his slain brothers, said another official knowledgeable about the arrangements.
Exact times and dates are still being determined by the Kennedy family.
Flags are at half-staff at the U.S. Capitol, and President Obama has ordered the same at the White House and all federal buildings, following the death of the longtime senator.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Phil Picardi is a newscaster for MPR News, and occasionally fills in as Morning Edition host when Cathy Wurzer is away.