SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must
be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary
School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those
children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their
teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved
them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman
On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense
legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with
dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could
prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo.,
Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.
Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met
with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown.
Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked
about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban
Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot
besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents —
who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still
these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.
I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to
hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected
six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in
Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take
a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on
political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests
like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent
around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending.
Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious.
I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and
until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We
are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo —
desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by
spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.
I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the
cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these
lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking
activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving
them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve
disappointed me, and there will be consequences.
People have told me that I’m courageous, but I have seen greater courage. Gabe
Zimmerman, my friend and staff member in whose honor we dedicated a room in the
United States Capitol this week, saw me shot in the head and saw the shooter
turn his gunfire on others. Gabe ran toward me as I lay bleeding. Toward
gunfire. And then the gunman shot him, and then Gabe died. His body lay on the
pavement in front of the Safeway for hours.
I have thought a lot about why Gabe ran toward me when he could have run away.
Service was part of his life, but it was also his job. The senators who voted
against background checks for online and gun-show sales, and those who voted
against checks to screen out would-be gun buyers with mental illness, failed to
do their job.
They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by
moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the
powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government
itself by choosing to do nothing.
They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false
accounts of what the bill might have done — trust me, I know how politicians
talk when they want to distract you — but their decision was based on a
misplaced sense of self-interest. I say misplaced, because to preserve their
dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their
constituents. They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of
gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it
would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their
This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I’ve always known would be a
long, hard haul. Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither
remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while
protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that
Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have
now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different
Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s. To do
nothing while others are in danger is not the American way.
Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic representative from Arizona from 2007 to 2012,
is a founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, which focuses on gun
WASHINGTON — With the contentious 112th Congress coming to a
close, the talks between the White House, Senate Republicans and Senate
Democrats that secured a path around a looming fiscal crisis on Tuesday may
point the way forward for President Obama as he tries to navigate his second
term around House Republicans intent on blocking his agenda in the 113th.
For two years, the president has seen House Republican leaders as the key to
legislative progress, and he has pursued direct talks with Speaker John A.
Boehner of Ohio and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader.
That avenue of negotiation proved fruitless, in large part because House
Republicans were deeply divided about any compromise that Mr. Obama would
accept. The failure led Mr. Boehner to tell his colleagues this week that he
would not be engaging in any more one-on-one negotiations with the president.
But negotiations over the fiscal impasse pointed to a new and unlikely path as
more fiscal deadlines approach. In this case, Senator Mitch McConnell of
Kentucky, the Republican leader and a veteran legislative dealmaker, initiated
negotiations with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., which instigated talks
between them and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. That produced
sweeping tax legislation that averted large tax increases for most Americans and
across-the-board spending cuts.
Then both Senate leaders worked hard to deliver the votes of a vast majority of
their reluctant members, isolating House Republican leaders, who found
themselves with no way forward other than to put the bill before the House and
let Democrats push it over the finish line.
“I think this is the fourth time that we’ve seen this play out, where Boehner
finally relents and lets the House consider a measure, and Democrats provide the
votes to pass it,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s
second-ranking Democrat. “When they reach the point where their hand is forced,
where there’s no other place to turn, they’ll do the right thing.”
That realization may lead to a more formalized process to begin bipartisan
negotiations in the Senate to put pressure on the House. The deal that passed on
Tuesday lifted the threat of tax increases that could have crippled the economy,
but in other ways it compounded near-term fiscal threats. The government reached
its statutory borrowing limit on Monday, giving Congress at best two to three
months to raise the debt ceiling or risk a debilitating default on federal debt.
Around the same time, a two-month delay in the institution of across-the-board
military and domestic spending cuts will lapse. Then, by the end of March, the
current stopgap spending law financing the federal government will end, raising
the specter of another government shutdown.
If House Republicans believe they can use those deadlines to extract concessions
from the president on spending cuts, the White House may go elsewhere for a
deal, Democrats say.
An official knowledgeable about the last negotiations said on Wednesday that the
president would use such a strategy only if he was convinced that House
Republican leaders would not or could not compromise. But in meeting with Senate
Democrats on Monday and House Democrats on Tuesday, Mr. Biden labored to
convince lawmakers that the White House had a way forward that would avoid
last-minute theatrics and would not entail a stream of compromises on party
principles, according to lawmakers who were there.
“One of the main concerns is, where do we go from here?” said Representative
Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, adding that Democrats feared that
compromises on tax increases for the rich in the deal approved on Tuesday would
lead to cuts in Social Security and Medicare in the next round of talks. “He has
a game plan for that.”
A senior Democrat said that game plan would start in the coming weeks, when Mr.
Obama addresses his agenda in his State of the Union address and lays out his
budget for the 2014 fiscal year, due in early February.
That opening bid should restart talks with Congress on an overarching agreement
that would lock in deficit reduction through additional revenue, changes to
entitlement programs and more spending cuts, to be worked out by the relevant
committees in Congress. But this time, those talks might start in the Senate.
House Republican aides said the past few weeks were unique and not indicative of
anything going forward. The president won re-election on a pledge to raise taxes
on income over $250,000. His mandate does not extend beyond that, one aide said.
Besides, officials in both parties warn, neither Mr. Reid nor Mr. McConnell will
want to lead on the difficult issues now in view. Mr. Reid was reluctant, at
best, about joining the Biden-McConnell talks.
And Mr. McConnell has made it clear that future deficit deals should be done
through “regular order” — Congressional committees, Senate and House debates and
open negotiations, not private talks. Officials in both parties worry that as
his 2014 re-election campaign gets closer, Mr. McConnell will be increasingly
reluctant to have his fingerprints on deals with the president.
Even if a Senate route can be institutionalized, Mr. Durbin said he doubted that
it would smooth the passage of bipartisan deals, given the difficulties Mr.
Boehner has getting his troops in line. “His anguish has a timetable. It goes
through phases and places that I don’t understand,” Mr. Durbin said of the
speaker. “And I am afraid every scary chapter has to play out every step of the
way before anything is resolved.”
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, said the last-minute crunch that
produced the tax accord was necessary only because the Senate refused to act
earlier. The House passed legislation months ago to extend all the expiring
Bush-era tax cuts and to stop automatic military cuts by shifting them to
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Wednesday defeated a bid by Republicans to
repeal last year’s sweeping health care overhaul, as they successfully mounted a
party-line defense of President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.
Challenges to the law will continue, however, on Capitol Hill and in the courts,
with the United States Supreme Court ultimately expected to decide if the law is
The vote was 47 to 51, with all Republicans voting unanimously for repeal but
falling 13 votes short of the 60 needed to advance their proposal.
Lawmakers in both parties joined forces, however, to repeal a tax provision in
the law that would impose a huge information-reporting requirement on small
businesses. That vote was 81 to 17, with 34 Democrats and all 47 Republicans in
Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Mark Warner,
Democrat of Virginia, were absent.
Republicans said after the votes that they would persist in their efforts to
overturn the law. Rejecting assertions that the repeal vote was a “futile act,”
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign
Committee, declared, “These are the first steps in a long road that will
culminate in 2012.”
Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota and a potential presidential
candidate in 2012, noted that Republicans had just 40 votes when they opposed
the health care bill last year, but that they had 47 as a result of winning
seats in November.
“Elections do have consequences,” Mr. Thune said.
The vote to eliminate the tax provision offered a brief moment of consensus on a
day otherwise characterized by angry partisan disagreement. In the latest
reprise of last year’s fierce debate over the health care law, senators crossed
rhetorical swords for hours of floor debate.
Republicans denounced the overhaul as impeding job creation and giving the
government too big a role in the health care system. Democrats highlighted the
law’s benefits, especially for the uninsured, and noted that the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office had projected that the law would reduce future
Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, who is an ophthalmologist, cited the
law’s requirement that nearly all Americans obtain insurance as evidence that it
was unconstitutional and overly intrusive.
“If you can regulate inactivity, basically the non-act of not buying insurance,
then there is no aspect to our life that would left free from government
regulation and intrusion,” Mr. Paul said. He added, “From my perspective as a
physician, I saw that we already had too much government involvement in health
But Democrats hit back hard.
“The Republicans’ obsession with repealing the new health reform law is not
based on budgetary considerations,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa,
the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “It is
based strictly on ideology. They oppose the law’s crackdown on abuses by health
insurance companies and they oppose any serious effort by the federal government
to secure health insurance coverage for tens of millions of Americans who
currently have none.”
And Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat, lambasted
Republicans for seeking repeal of the law without proposing an alternative.
“If my colleagues on the other side of the aisle said: ‘You know, you’re right.
We have to reduce costs. We have a better way,’ and they offered a bill on the
floor, well maybe we’d take a look at it,” Mr. Schumer said. “But they’re
silent.” He added: “Easy to sit there and say, ‘repeal.’ What would you put in
The repeal measure, which was adopted overwhelmingly by the
Republican-controlled House last month, was put forward by the Senate Republican
leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, as an amendment to an aviation industry
bill that is now on the Senate floor.
The willingness of the majority Senate Democrats to allow a vote on the
amendment reflected a deal among leaders of both parties to limit the
parliamentary warfare and ease the procedural stalemates that have bogged down
the Senate in recent years.
The openness to a vote also reflected confidence among Democrats that they would
be able to defeat the amendment.
And they did, challenging the amendment on the grounds that it violated the
budget resolution by increasing the deficit. To overcome that challenge, and win
approval, Mr. McConnell needed the votes of 60 senators.
On the repeal of the tax provision, a similar challenge on budget grounds was
easily surmounted. Republicans had criticized the provision, which would require
businesses to file a 1099 tax form identifying anyone to whom they paid $600 or
more for goods or merchandise in a year. Businesses would also be required to
send copies of the form to their vendors, suppliers and contractors. The House
is expected to support its repeal.
Because the tax provision was expected to result in increased tax revenue,
Democrats had to come up with another way to generate the same money. The plan
that was approved, sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan,
rescinds $44 billion in unspent money appropriated by Congress. But it exempts
the Pentagon, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security
Administration from those cuts.
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Saturday voted to strike down the ban on gay men
and lesbians serving openly in the military, bringing to a close a 17-year
struggle over a policy that forced thousands of Americans from the ranks and
caused others to keep secret their sexual orientation.
By a vote of 65 to 31, with eight Republicans joining Democrats, the Senate
approved and sent to President Obama a repeal of the Clinton-era law, known as
“don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy critics said amounted to government-sanctioned
discrimination that treated gay, lesbian and bisexual troops as second-class
Mr. Obama hailed the action, which fulfills his pledge to reverse the ban, and
said it was “time to close this chapter in our history.”
“As commander in chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change
will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best-led and
best-trained fighting force the world has ever known,” he said in a statement
after the Senate, on a preliminary 63-to-33 vote, beat back Republican efforts
to block final action on the repeal bill.
The vote marked a historic moment that some equated with the end of racial
segregation in the military.
It followed an exhaustive Pentagon review that determined the policy could be
changed with only isolated disruptions to unit cohesion and retention, though
members of combat units and the Marine Corps expressed greater reservations
about the shift. Congressional action was backed by Pentagon officials as a
better alternative to a court-ordered end.
Supporters of the repeal said it was long past time to abolish what they saw as
an ill-advised practice that cost valuable personnel and forced troops to lie to
serve their country.
“We righted a wrong,” said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the independent from
Connecticut and a leader of the effort to end the ban. “Today we’ve done
Before voting on the repeal, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created a
path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants who came to the United States
at a young age, completed two years of college or military service and met other
requirements including passing a criminal background check.
The 55-to-41 vote in favor of the citizenship bill was five votes short of the
number needed to clear the way for final passage of what is known as the Dream
The outcome effectively kills it for this year, and its fate beyond that is
uncertain since Republicans who will assume control of the House in January
oppose the measure and are unlikely to bring it to a vote.
The Senate then moved on to the military legislation, engaging in an emotional
back and forth over the merits of the measure as advocates for repeal watched
from galleries crowded with people interested in the fate of both the military
and immigration measures.
“I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as the
debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you
shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”
Mr. Wyden showed up for the Senate vote despite saying earlier that he would be
unable to do so because he would be undergoing final tests before his scheduled
surgery for prostate cancer on Monday.
The vote came in the final days of the 111th Congress as Democrats sought to
force through a final few priorities before they turn over control of the House
of Representatives to the Republicans in January and see their clout in the
It represented a significant victory for the White House, Congressional
advocates of lifting the ban and activists who have pushed for years to end the
Pentagon policy created in 1993 under the Clinton administration as a compromise
effort to end the practice of barring gay men and lesbians entirely from
Saying it represented an emotional moment for members of the gay community
nationwide, advocates who supported repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” exchanged
hugs outside the Senate chamber after the vote.
“Today’s vote means gay and lesbian service members posted all around the world
can stand taller knowing that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will soon be coming to an
end,” said Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director for
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and his party’s presidential
candidate in 2008, led the opposition to the repeal and said the vote was a sad
day in history.
“I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are
doing great damage,” Mr. McCain said. “And we could possibly and probably, as
the commandant of the Marine Corps said, and as I have been told by literally
thousands of members of the military, harm the battle effectiveness vital to the
survival of our young men and women in the military.”
He and others opposed to lifting the ban said the change could harm the unit
cohesion that is essential to effective military operations, particularly in
combat, and deter some Americans from enlisting or pursuing a career in the
military. They noted that despite support for repealing the ban from Defense
Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, other military commanders have warned that changing the practice would
“This isn’t broke,” Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, said about
the policy. “It is working very well.”
Other Republicans said that while the policy might need to be changed at some
point, Congress should not do so when American troops are fighting overseas.
Only a week ago, the effort to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy seemed
to be dead and in danger of fading for at least two years with Republicans about
to take control of the House. The provision eliminating the ban was initially
included in a broader Pentagon policy bill, and Republican backers of repeal had
refused to join in cutting off a filibuster against the underlying bill because
of objections over limits on debate of the measure.
In a last-ditch effort, Mr. Lieberman and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a key
Republican opponent of the ban, encouraged Democratic Congressional leaders to
instead pursue a vote on simply repealing it. The House passed the measure
earlier in the week.
The repeal will not take effect for at least 60 days, and probably longer, while
some other procedural steps are taken. In addition, the bill requires the
defense secretary to determine that policies are in place to carry out the
repeal “consistent with military standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit
cohesion, and recruiting and retention.”
“It is going to take some time,” Ms. Collins said. “It is not going to happen
In a statement, Mr. Gates said that once the measure was signed into law, he
would “immediately proceed with the planning necessary to carry out this change
carefully and methodically, but purposefully.” In the meantime, he said, “the
current law and policy will remain in effect.”
Because of the delay in formally overturning the policy, Mr. Sarvis appealed to
Mr. Gates to suspend any investigations into military personnel or discharge
proceedings now under way. Legal challenges to the existing ban are also
expected to continue until the repeal is fully carried out.
In addition to Ms. Collins, Republicans backing the repeal were Senators Scott
P. Brown of Massachusetts, Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, John Ensign of
Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Olympia J. Snowe of
Maine and George V. Voinovich of Ohio.
“It was a difficult vote for many of them,” Ms. Collins said, “but in the end
they concluded, as I have concluded, that we should welcome the service of any
qualified individual who is willing to put on the uniform of this country.”
Mr. Lieberman said the ban undermined the integrity of the military by forcing
troops to lie. He said 14,000 people had been forced to leave the armed forces
under the policy.
“What a waste,” he said.
The fight erupted in the early days of President Bill Clinton’s administration
and has been a roiling political issue ever since. Mr. Obama endorsed repeal in
his presidential campaign and advocates saw the current Congress as their best
opportunity for ending the ban. Dozens of advocates of ending the ban —
including one severely wounded in combat before being forced from the military —
watched from the Senate gallery as the debate took place.
Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services
Committee, dismissed Republican complaints that Democrats were trying to race
through the repeal to satisfy their political supporters.
“I’m not here for partisan reasons,” Mr. Levin said. “I’m here because men and
women wearing the uniform of the United States who are gay and lesbian have died
for this country, because gay and lesbian men and women wearing the uniform of
this country have their lives on the line right now.”
On one of the most shameful days in the modern history of the Senate, the
Republican minority on Thursday prevented a vote to allow gay and lesbian
soldiers to serve openly in the military of the United States. They chose to
filibuster a vital defense bill because it also banned discrimination in the
military ranks. And in an unrelated but no less callous move, they blocked
consideration of help for tens of thousands of emergency workers and volunteers
who became ill from the ground zero cleanup after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The senators who stood in the way of these measures must answer to the thousands
of gay and lesbian soldiers who must live a lie in order to serve, or drop out.
They must answer to the civilians who will not serve their country when some
Americans are banned from doing so for an absurd reason, and to the military
leaders who all but pleaded with them to end this unjust policy. They must
answer to the workers who thought they were aiding their country by cleaning up
The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said that he would allow another vote on
repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in a free-standing bill
later this month. That long shot is likely to be the final test of whether the
Republicans are interested in allowing military equality.
Republicans wanted extra days of debate, demanding the right to amend the
defense bill that contained the repeal provision, and essentially killing the
bill without quite admitting to it by suffocating it of time. Mr. Reid said he
had concluded that they had no intention of repealing the repressive measure, so
he called for a vote.
The outcome was three votes short of the 60 needed to break the filibuster. Only
one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voted to end the filibuster. Two
Republicans who said they would vote for repeal, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and
Scott Brown of Massachusetts, voted the other way, as did one Democrat, Joe
Manchin of West Virginia. Ms. Murkowski and Mr. Brown stuck with a Republican
pledge to support no other measures until the tax-cut deal had been dealt with.
Mr. Reid will undoubtedly be second-guessed on his decision to call for a vote,
but given the other-worldly logic of a lame-duck session, it is hard to fault
his hard-bitten calculation of the Republicans’ intentions. Senator Carl Levin
of Michigan, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that if debate
on the 850-page defense bill did not begin this week, there would be no time to
finish it in the remaining few days of the session.
The defense bill would also have raised pay for soldiers, improved their medical
care and provided troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with additional equipment and
support. It would be the first time in 48 years that Congress did not approve
such a bill — all because of an irrational prejudice against gay men and
The filibuster on $7.4 billion in medical care and compensation for the workers
at ground zero will be harrowing for the tens of thousands who labored
tirelessly for weeks and eventually had to seek care under a patchwork of
temporary medical and research programs in the city. These police, firefighters
and waves of citizen volunteers need ongoing care for illnesses being traced to
the toxic fumes, dust and smoke at ground zero.
In the House, Democrats also took a wrongheaded vote to ban transfers of
prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to detention facilities in the United
States. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has urged the Senate to strip the
provision from the final bill.
Another measure of overdue justice — the Dream Act, which would empower the
innocent children of illegal immigrants with education and public service
opportunity — barely survived a Republican filibuster in the Senate after being
tabled by proponents hoping to drum up support in coming days. There is little
sign of encouragement, however, for that good cause or others as the 111th
Congress expires in the grip of Senate Republicans demeaning public service as
an exercise of naysaying.
The New York Times
By JEFF ZELENY
captured control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday and expanded their
voice in the Senate, riding a wave of voter discontent as they dealt a setback
to President Obama just two years after his triumphal victory.
A Republican resurgence, propelled by deep economic worries and a forceful
opposition to the Democratic agenda of health care and government spending,
delivered defeats to House Democrats from the Northeast to the South and across
the Midwest. The tide swept aside dozens of lawmakers, regardless of their
seniority or their voting records, upending the balance of power for the second
half of Mr. Obama’s term.
But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, narrowly prevailed and
his party hung onto control by winning hard-fought contests in California,
Delaware, Connecticut and West Virginia. Republicans picked up at least six
Democratic seats, including the one formerly held by Mr. Obama, and the party
will welcome Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky to their ranks,
two candidates who were initially shunned by the establishment but beloved by
the Tea Party movement.
“The American people’s voice was heard at the ballot box,” said Representative
John A. Boehner of Ohio, who is positioned to become the next speaker of the
House. “We have real work to do, and this is not the time for celebration.”
The president, who watched the election returns with a small set of advisers at
the White House, called Mr. Boehner shortly after midnight to offer his
congratulations and to talk about the way forward as Washington prepares for
divided government. Republicans won at least 56 seats, not including those from
some Western states where ballots were still being counted, surpassing the 52
seats the party won in the sweep of 1994.
The most expensive midterm election campaign in the nation’s history, fueled by
a raft of contributions from outside interest groups and millions in donations
to candidates in both parties, played out across a wide battleground that
stretched from Alaska to Maine. The Republican tide swept into statehouse races,
too, with Democrats poised to lose the majority of governorships, particularly
those in key presidential swing states, like Ohio, where Gov. Ted Strickland was
One after another, once-unassailable Democrats like Senator Russ Feingold of
Wisconsin, Representatives Ike Skelton of Missouri, John Spratt of South
Carolina, Rick Boucher of Virginia and Chet Edwards of Texas fell to
little-known Republican challengers.
“Voters sent a message that change has not happened fast enough,” said Tim
Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Republicans did not achieve a perfect evening, losing races in several states
they had once hoped to win, including the Senate contests in Delaware and
Connecticut, because some candidates supported by the Tea Party movement knocked
out establishment candidates to win their nominations. But they did score
notable victories in some tight races, like Pat Toomey’s Senate run in
Senator Reid said in a speech that he was “more determined than ever” after his
victory. “I know what it’s like to get back on your feet.”
The outcome on Tuesday was nothing short of a remarkable comeback for
Republicans two years after they suffered a crushing defeat in the White House
and four years after Democrats swept control of the House and Senate. It places
the party back in the driver’s seat in terms of policy, posing new challenges to
Mr. Obama as he faces a tough two years in his term, but also for Republicans —
led by Mr. Boehner — as he suddenly finds himself in a position of
responsibility, rather than being simply the outsider.
In the House, Republicans found victories in most corners of the country,
including five seats in Pennsylvania, five in Ohio, at least three in Florida,
Illinois and Virginia and two in Georgia. Democrats braced for the prospect of
historic defeats, more than the 39 seats the Republicans needed to win control.
Republicans reached their majority by taking seats east of the Mississippi even
before late results flowed in from farther West.
Throughout the evening, in race after race, Republican challengers defeated
Democratic incumbents, despite being at significant fund-raising disadvantages.
Republican-oriented independent groups invariably came to the rescue, helping
level of the playing field, including in Florida’s 24th Congressional District,
in which Sandy Adams defeated Representative Suzanne Kosmas; Virginia’s 9th
Congressional District, where Mr. Boucher, a 14-term incumbent, lost to Morgan
Griffith; and Texas’s 17th Congressional District, in which Mr. Edwards, who was
seeking his 11th term, succumbed to Bill Flores.
Democrats argued that the Republican triumph was far from complete, particularly
in the Senate, pointing to the preservation of Mr. Reid and other races. In
Delaware, Chris Coons defeated Christine O’Donnell, whose candidacy became a
symbol of the unorthodox political candidates swept onto the ballot in
Republican primary contests. In West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin III, a Democrat,
triumphed over an insurgent Republican rival to fill the seat held for a
half-century by Senator Robert C. Byrd. And in California, Senator Barbara Boxer
overcame a vigorous challenge from Carly Fiorina, a Republican.
But Democrats conceded that their plans to increase voter turnout did not meet
expectations, party strategists said, and extraordinary efforts that Mr. Obama
made in the final days of the campaign appeared to have borne little fruit.
The president flew to Charlottesville, Va., on Friday evening, for instance, in
hopes of rallying Democrats to support Representative Tom Perriello, a freshman
who supported every piece of the administration’s agenda, but he was defeated
despite the president’s appeals to Democrats in a state that he carried two
In governors’ races, Republicans won several contests in the nation’s middle.
They held onto governorships in Texas, Nebraska and South Dakota, and had seized
seats now occupied by Democrats in Tennessee, Michigan and Kansas. Sam
Brownback, a United States Senator and Republican, easily took the Kansas post
that Mark Parkinson, a former Republican turned Democrat, is leaving behind.
Though Democrats, who before the election held 26 governors’ seats compared to
24 for the Republicans, were expected to face losses, there were also bright
spots. In New York, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo easily defeated the
Republican, Carl P. Paladino, even as Republicans were expected to pick up seats
in the state legislature and the congressional delegation. In Massachusetts,
Gov. Deval Patrick won a second term.
As the election results rolled in, with Republicans picking up victories shortly
after polls closed in states across the South, East and the Midwest, the House
speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and other party leaders made urgent appeals through
television interviews that there was still time for voters in other states to
cast their ballots.
But the mood in Democratic quarters was glum, with few early signs of optimism
in House or Senate races that were called early in the evening. Surveys that
were conducted with voters across the country also provided little sense of hope
for Democrats, with Republicans gaining a majority of independents,
college-educated people and suburbanites — all groups that were part of the
coalition of voters who supported Mr. Obama two years ago.
“We’ve come to take our government back,” Mr. Paul told cheering supporters who
gathered in Bowling Green, Ky. “They say that the U.S. Senate is the world’s
most deliberative body. I’m going to ask them to deliberate on this: The
American people are unhappy with what’s going on in Washington.”
The election was a referendum on President Obama and the Democratic agenda,
according to interviews with voters that were conducted for the National
Election Pool, a consortium of television networks and The Associated Press,
with a wide majority of the electorate saying that the country was seriously off
track. Nearly nine in 10 voters said they were worried about the economy and
about 4 in 10 said their family’s situation had worsened in the last two years.
The surveys found that voters were even more dissatisfied with Congress now than
they were in 2006, when Democrats reclaimed control from the Republicans.
Preliminary results also indicated an electorate far more conservative than four
years ago, a sign of stronger turnout by people leaning toward Republicans.
Most voters said they believed Mr. Obama’s policies would hurt the country in
the long run, rather than help it, and a large share of voters said they
supported the Tea Party movement, which has backed insurgent candidates all
across the country.
The Republican winds began blowing back in January when Democrats lost the seat
long held by Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, with the victory of
Scott P. Brown serving as a motivating force for the budding Tea Party movement
and a burst of inspiration for Republican candidates across the country to step
forward and challenge Democrats everywhere.
On Tuesday, the president did not leave the grounds of the White House, taking a
respite from days of campaigning across the country, so he could meet with a
circle of top advisers to plot a way forward for his administration and his own
looming re-election campaign. The White House said Mr. Obama would hold a news
conference on Wednesday to address the governing challenges that await the new
“My hope is that I can cooperate with Republicans,” Mr. Obama said in a radio
interview on Tuesday. “But obviously, the kinds of compromises that will be made
depends on what Capitol Hill looks like — who’s in charge.”
But even as the president was poised to offer a fresh commitment to
bipartisanship, he spent the final hours of the midterm campaign trying to
persuade Democrats in key states to take time to vote. From the Oval Office, Mr.
Obama conducted one radio interview after another, urging black voters in
particular to help preserve the party’s majority and his agenda.
“How well I’m able to move my agenda forward over the next couple of years is
going to depend on folks back home having my back,” Mr. Obama said in an
interview with the Chicago radio station WGCI, in which he made an unsuccessful
appeal for voters to keep his former Senate seat in Democratic hands.
There was little Democratic terrain across the country that seemed immune to
Republican encroachment, with many of the most competitive races being waged in
states that Mr. Obama carried strongly only two years ago. From the president’s
home state of Illinois to neighboring Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio — all
places that were kind to the Democratic ticket in 2008 — Republicans worked
aggressively to find new opportunities.
For all the drama surrounding the final day of the midterm campaign, more than
19 million Americans had voted before Tuesday, a trend that has grown with each
election cycle over the last decade, as 32 states now offer a way for voters to
practice democracy in far more convenient ways than simply waiting in line on
The New York Times
By BINYAMIN APPELBAUM
and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
— Congress approved a sweeping expansion of federal financial regulation on
Thursday, reflecting a renewed mistrust of financial markets after decades in
which Washington stood back from Wall Street with wide-eyed admiration.
The bill, heavily promoted by President Obama and Congressional Democrats as a
response to the 2008 financial crisis, cleared the Senate by a vote of 60 to 39,
largely along party lines, after weeks of wrangling that allowed Democrats to
pick up the three Republican votes to ensure passage.
The vote was the culmination of nearly two years of fierce lobbying and intense
debate over the appropriate response to the financial excesses that dragged the
nation into the worst recession since the Great Depression.
The result is a catalog of repairs and additions to the rusted infrastructure of
a regulatory system that has failed to keep up with the expanding scope and
complexity of modern finance.
The bill subjects more financial companies to federal oversight, regulates many
derivatives contracts, and creates a panel to detect risks to the financial
system along with a consumer protection regulator. It leaves a vast number of
details for regulators to work out, inevitably setting off another round of
battles that could last for years.
Over the last half-century, as traders and lenders increasingly drove the
nation’s economic growth, politicians of both parties scrambled to get out of
the way, passing a series of landmark bills that allowed financial companies to
become larger, less transparent and more profitable.
Usury laws were set aside. Banks were allowed to expand across state lines, sell
insurance, trade securities. The government watched and did nothing as the bulk
of financial activity moved into a parallel universe of private investment
funds, unregulated lenders and black markets like derivatives trading.
That era of hands-off optimism was gaveled to an end on Thursday as the Senate
gave final approval to a bill that reasserts the importance of federal
supervision of financial transactions.
“The financial industry is central to our nation’s ability to grow, to prosper,
to compete and to innovate. This reform will foster that innovation, not hamper
it,” Mr. Obama said Thursday. “Unless your business model depends on cutting
corners or bilking your customers, you have nothing to fear.”
The White House said Mr. Obama would sign the legislation next week.
Democrats, who celebrated with high fives and handshakes as the bill was packed
in a blue box for delivery to the White House, argue that the government’s
expanded role will improve the stability of the financial system without sapping
its vitality. But that project faces considerable challenges. Many investors
have withdrawn from markets like commercial paper that were once seen as safe.
Lenders have lost faith in borrowers. Politicians and central bankers are
struggling to repair economies and restore the flow of credit.
Even the bill’s political luster no longer seems certain. Despite public anger
at Wall Street, the vast majority of Republicans opposed the bill with loud
confidence, betting ahead of hotly contested midterm elections that the public
dislikes government even more.
Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, described the bill as “a
2,300-page legislative monster.”
“It creates vast new bureaucracies with little accountability and seriously, I
believe, undermines the competitiveness of the American economy,” Mr. Shelby
said on the Senate floor before the final vote. “Unfortunately, the bill does
very little to make our system safer.”
The three Republicans who voted in favor were New England moderates, Olympia J.
Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts. The one
Democratic holdout was Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who said he voted against the
bill because it was not tough enough.
The bill expands federal banking and securities regulation from its focus on
banks and public markets, subjecting a wider range of financial companies to
government oversight, and imposing regulation for the first time on “black
markets” like the enormous trade in credit derivatives.
It creates a council of federal regulators, led by the Treasury secretary, to
coordinate the detection of risks to the financial system, and it provides new
powers to constrain and even dismantle troubled companies.
It also creates a powerful new regulator, appointed by the president, to protect
consumers of financial products, which will be housed in the Federal Reserve.
The first visible result may come in about two years, the deadline for the
consumer regulator to create a simplified disclosure form for mortgage loans.
Officials are already working to prepare for the expansion of government,
including finding buildings in Washington to house the new agencies.
The rhythms of Washington have long dictated that crises beget legislation, but
Democrats insisted Thursday that these changes also represented a long-overdue
response to the evolution of the financial industry.
“This is a public sector response to transformative changes in the private
sector,” said Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and a
crucial author of the legislation. “You have to have rules that allow you to
continue to get the benefit of the innovation but curtail abuses.”
Democrats divided initially over how to pursue that goal. Some pushed to break
apart large banks and curtail risky kinds of trading. Others sought a grander
overhaul of federal regulation. The administration’s approach, which prevailed,
instead is focused on giving existing regulators additional powers in the hope
that they will produce better results.
The legislation is painted in broad strokes, so like actors handed a script,
those regulators have broad leeway to shape its meaning and its impact.
“This is a framework that has the potential to be as modern as the markets, but
its efficacy will certainly depend upon the judgments that regulators make,”
said Lawrence H. Summers, the president’s chief economic adviser.
The legislation, for example, requires many derivatives to be traded through
clearinghouses, a form of insurance for the traders, and it requires traders to
disclose pricing data to encourage competition. But regulators will decide which
derivatives, and how long traders can wait to disclose pricing information.
The administration can shape that process through the appointment of new leaders
for the various agencies. The Senate held confirmation hearings on Thursday for
three nominees to the Fed’s board of governors. In addition to appointing a new
consumer regulator, the president will nominate a new comptroller of the
currency, responsible for regulating national banks.
The same groups that fought to shape the legislation — bankers and business
groups, consumer advocates and trade unions — already have turned their
attention to the rule-making process, seeking a second chance to influence
outcomes. Much of the work must be completed over the next two years, but the
bill sets some deadlines more than a decade from now.
Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, who as banking committee chairman
was a main architect of the legislation, said its success ultimately would
depend on regulators’ performance.
“We can’t legislate wisdom or passion. We can’t legislate competency. All we can
do is create the structures and hope that good people will be appointed who will
attract other good people,” Mr. Dodd said.
Mr. Dodd said he would hold hearings beginning in September to check up on that
work before he retires at the end of the year.
The legislation will be carried out mostly by the same federal workers who were
on duty as the financial system collapsed. The new consumer bureau, for example,
mostly will be staffed with employees transferred from the consumer divisions of
the existing banking regulators, which have been excoriated by Congress and
other critics for failing to protect borrowers from obvious and widespread
Administration officials said they were confident that providing new leaders for
those employees and granting them new powers, would produce better results.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a son of one of the most storied
families in American politics, a man who knew triumph and tragedy in near-equal
measure and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the
history of the Senate, died late Tuesday night. He was 77.
The death of Mr. Kennedy, who had been battling brain cancer, was announced
Wednesday morning in a statement by the Kennedy family, which was already
mourning the death of the Senator’s sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver two weeks
“Edward M. Kennedy – the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we
loved so deeply – died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port,” the
statement said. “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.”
Mr. Kennedy had been in precarious health since he suffered a seizure in May
2008. His doctors determined the cause had been a malignant glioma, a brain
tumor that often carries a grim prognosis.
As he underwent cancer treatment, Mr. Kennedy was little seen in Washington,
appearing most recently at the White House in April as Mr. Obama signed a
national service bill that bears the Kennedy name. Last week Mr. Kennedy urged
Massachusetts lawmakers to change state law and let Gov. Deval Patrick appoint a
temporary replacement upon his death, to assure that the state’s representation
in Congress would not be interrupted by a special election.
While Mr. Kennedy had been physically absent from the capital in recent months,
his presence had been deeply felt as Congress weighed the most sweeping
revisions to America’s health care system in decades, an effort Mr. Kennedy
called “the cause of my life.”
On July 15, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, which
Mr. Kennedy headed, passed health care legislation, and the battle over the
proposed overhaul is now consuming Capitol Hill.
Mr. Kennedy was the last surviving brother of a generation of Kennedys that
dominated American politics in the 1960s and that came to embody glamour,
political idealism and untimely death. The Kennedy mystique — some call it the
Kennedy myth — has held the imagination of the world for decades and came to
rest on the sometimes too-narrow shoulders of the brother known as Teddy.
Mr. Kennedy, who served 46 years as the most well-known Democrat in the Senate,
longer than all but two other senators, was the only one of those brothers to
die after reaching old age. President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F.
Kennedy were felled by assassins’ bullets in their 40s. The eldest brother,
Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., died in 1944 at the age of 29 while on a risky World War
II bombing mission.
Mr. Kennedy spent much of last year in treatment and recuperation, broken by
occasional public appearances and a dramatic return to the Capitol last summer
to cast a decisive vote on a Medicare bill.
He electrified the opening night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver
in August with an unscheduled appearance and a speech that had delegates on
their feet. Many were in tears.
His gait was halting, but his voice was strong. “My fellow Democrats, my fellow
Americans, it is so wonderful to be here, and nothing is going to keep me away
from this special gathering tonight,” Mr. Kennedy said. “I have come here
tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to
our best ideals and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States.”
Senator Kennedy was at or near the center of much of American history in the
latter part of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st. For much of his
adult life, he veered from victory to catastrophe, winning every Senate election
he entered but failing in his only try for the presidency; living through the
sudden deaths of his brothers and three of his nephews; being responsible for
the drowning death on Chappaquiddick Island of a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne,
a former aide to his brother Robert. One of the nephews, John F. Kennedy Jr.,
who the family hoped would one day seek political office and keep the Kennedy
tradition alive, died in a plane crash in 1999 at age 38.
Mr. Kennedy himself was almost killed, in 1964, in a plane crash, which left him
with permanent back and neck problems.
He was a Rabelaisian figure in the Senate and in life, instantly recognizable by
his shock of white hair, his florid, oversize face, his booming Boston brogue,
his powerful but pained stride. He was a celebrity, sometimes a self-parody, a
hearty friend, an implacable foe, a man of large faith and large flaws, a
melancholy character who persevered, drank deeply and sang loudly. He was a
Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, one of the institution’s most
devoted students, said of his longtime colleague, “Ted Kennedy would have been a
leader, an outstanding senator, at any period in the nation’s history.”
Mr. Byrd is one of only two senators to have served longer in the chamber than
Mr. Kennedy; the other was Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. In May 2008, on
learning of Mr. Kennedy’s diagnosis of a lethal brain tumor, Mr. Byrd wept
openly on the floor of the Senate.
Born to one of the wealthiest American families, Mr. Kennedy spoke for the
downtrodden in his public life while living the heedless private life of a
playboy and a rake for many of his years. Dismissed early in his career as a
lightweight and an unworthy successor to his revered brothers, he grew in
stature over time by sheer longevity and by hewing to liberal principles while
often crossing the partisan aisle to enact legislation. A man of unbridled
appetites at times, he nevertheless brought a discipline to his public work that
resulted in an impressive catalog of legislative achievement across a broad
landscape of social policy.
Mr. Kennedy left his mark on legislation concerning civil rights, health care,
education, voting rights and labor. He was chairman of the Senate Committee on
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions at his death. But he was more than a
legislator. He was a living legend whose presence insured a crowd and whose
hovering figure haunted many a president.
Although he was a leading spokesman for liberal issues and a favorite target of
conservative fund-raising appeals, the hallmark of his legislative success was
his ability to find Republican allies to get bills passed. Perhaps the last
notable example was his work with President George W. Bush to pass the No Child
Left Behind education law pushed by Mr. Bush in 2001. He also co-sponsored
immigration legislation with Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican
presidential nominee. One of his greatest friends and collaborators in the
Senate was Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican.
Mr. Kennedy had less impact on foreign policy than on domestic concerns, but
when he spoke his voice was influential. He led the Congressional effort to
impose sanctions on South Africa over apartheid, pushed for peace in Northern
Ireland, won a ban on arms sales to the dictatorship in Chile and denounced the
Vietnam War. In 2002, he voted against authorizing the Iraq war; later, he
called that opposition “the best vote I’ve made in my 44 years in the United
At a pivotal moment in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, Mr. Kennedy
endorsed Senator Obama for president, saying Mr. Obama offered America a chance
for racial reconciliation and an opportunity to turn the page on the polarizing
politics of the past several decades.
“He will be a president who refuses to be trapped in the patterns of the past,”
Mr. Kennedy told an Obama rally in Washington on Jan. 28, 2008. “He is a leader
who sees the world clearly, without being cynical. He is a fighter who cares
passionately about the causes he believes in without demonizing those who hold a
Mr. Kennedy struggled for much of his life with his weight, with alcohol and
with persistent tales of womanizing. In an Easter break episode in 1991 in Palm
Beach, Fla., he went out drinking with his son Patrick and a nephew, William
Kennedy Smith, on the night that Mr. Smith was accused of raping a woman. Mr.
Smith was prosecuted in a lurid trial that fall but was acquitted.
Mr. Kennedy’s personal life stabilized in 1992 with his marriage to Victoria
Anne Reggie, a Washington lawyer. His first marriage, to Joan Bennett Kennedy,
ended in divorce in 1982 after 24 years.
Senator Kennedy served as a surrogate father to his brothers’ children and
worked to keep the Kennedy flame alive through the Kennedy Library in Boston,
the Kennedy Center in Washington and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard
University, where he helped establish the Institute of Politics.
In December, Harvard granted Mr. Kennedy a special honorary degree. He referred
to Mr. Obama’s election as “not just a culmination, but a new beginning.”
He then spoke of his own life, and perhaps his legacy.
“We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will
live on in the future we make,” he said. “I have lived a blessed time.”
Kennedy family courtiers and many other Democrats believed he would eventually
win the White House and redeem the promise of his older brothers. In 1980, he
took on the president of his own party, Jimmy Carter, but fell short because of
Chappaquiddick, a divided party and his own weaknesses as a candidate, including
an inability to articulate why he sought the office.
But as that race ended in August at the Democratic National Convention in New
York, Mr. Kennedy delivered his most memorable words, wrapping his dedication to
party principles in the gauzy cloak of Camelot.
“For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end,” Mr. Kennedy said in the
coda to a speech before a rapt audience at Madison Square Garden and on
television. “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on,
the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
A Family Steeped in Politics
Born Feb. 22, 1932, in Brookline, Mass., just outside Boston, Edward Moore
Kennedy grew up in a family of shrewd politicians. Both his father, Joseph P.
Kennedy, and his mother, the former Rose Fitzgerald, came from prominent
Irish-Catholic families with long involvement in the hurly-burly of Democratic
politics in Boston and Massachusetts. His father, who made a fortune in real
estate, movies and banking, served in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s
administration, as the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission
and then as ambassador to Britain.
There were nine Kennedy children, four boys and five girls, with Edward the
youngest. They grew up talking politics, power and influence because those were
the things that preoccupied the mind of Joseph Kennedy. As Rose Kennedy, who
took responsibility for the children’s Roman Catholic upbringing, once put it:
“My babies were rocked to political lullabies.”
When Edward was born, President Herbert Hoover sent Rose a bouquet of flowers
and a note of congratulations. The note came with 5 cents postage due; the
framed envelope is a family heirloom.
It was understood among the children that Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., the oldest boy,
would someday run for Congress and, his father hoped, the White House. When
Joseph Jr. was killed in World War II, it fell to the next oldest son, John F.,
to run. As John said at one point in 1959 while serving in the Senate: “Just as
I went into politics because Joe died, if anything happened to me tomorrow,
Bobby would run for my seat in the Senate. And if Bobby died, our young brother,
Ted, would take over for him.”
Although surrounded by the trappings of wealth — stately houses, servants and
expensive cars — young Teddy did not enjoy a settled childhood. He bounced among
the family homes in Boston, New York, London and Palm Beach, and by the time
Edward was ready to enter college, he had attended 10 preparatory schools in the
United States and England, finally finishing at Milton Academy, near Boston. He
said that the constant moving had forced him to become more genial with
strangers; indeed, he grew to be more of a natural politician than either John
After graduating from Milton in 1950, where he showed a penchant for debating
and sports but was otherwise an undistinguished student, Mr. Kennedy enrolled in
Harvard, as had his father and brothers. It was at Harvard, in his freshman
year, that he ran into the first of several personal troubles that were to dog
him for the rest of his life: He persuaded another student to take his Spanish
examination, got caught and was forced to leave the university.
Suddenly draft-eligible during the Korean War, Mr. Kennedy enlisted in the Army
and served two years, securing, with his father’s help, a cushy post at NATO
headquarters in Paris. In 1953, he was discharged with the rank of private first
Re-enrolling in Harvard, he became a more serious student, majoring in
government, excelling in public speaking and playing first-string end on the
football team. He graduated in 1956 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, then
enrolled in the University of Virginia School of Law, where Robert had studied.
There, he won the moot court competition and took a degree in 1959. Later that
year, he was admitted to the Massachusetts bar.
Mr. Kennedy’s first foray into politics came in 1958, while still a law student,
when he managed John’s Senate re-election campaign. There was never any real
doubt that Massachusetts voters would return John Kennedy to Washington, but it
was a useful internship for his youngest brother.
That same year, Mr. Kennedy married Virginia Joan Bennett, a debutante from
Bronxville, a New York suburb where the Kennedys had once lived. In 1960, when
John Kennedy ran for president, Edward was assigned a relatively minor role,
rustling up votes in Western states that usually voted Republican. He was so
enthusiastic about his task that he rode a bronco at a Montana rodeo and
daringly took a ski jump at a winter sports tournament in Wisconsin to impress a
crowd. The episodes were evidence of a reckless streak that repeatedly
threatened his life and career.
John Kennedy’s election to the White House left vacant a Senate seat that the
family considered its property. Robert Kennedy was next in line, but chose the
post of attorney general instead (an act of nepotism that has since been
outlawed). Edward was only 28, two years shy of the minimum age for Senate
So the Kennedys installed Benjamin A. Smith 2d, a family friend, as a
seat-warmer until 1962, when a special election would be held and Edward would
have turned 30. Edward used the time to travel the world and work as an
assistant district attorney in Boston, waiving the $5,000 salary and serving
instead for $1 a year.
As James Sterling Young, the director of a Kennedy Oral History Project at the
University of Virginia, put it: “Most people grow up and go into politics. The
Kennedys go into politics and then they grow up.”
Less than a month after turning 30 in 1962, Mr. Kennedy declared his candidacy
for the remaining two years of his brother’s Senate term. He entered the race
with a tailwind of family money and political prominence. Nevertheless, Edward
J. McCormack Jr., the state’s attorney general and a nephew of John W.
McCormack, then speaker of the United States House of Representatives, also
decided to go after the seat.
It was a bitter fight, with a public rehash of the Harvard cheating episode and
with Mr. McCormack charging in a televised “Teddy-Eddie” debate that Mr. Kennedy
lacked maturity of judgment because he had “never worked for a living” and had
never held elective office. “If your name was simply Edward Moore instead of
Edward Moore Kennedy,” Mr. McCormack added, “your candidacy would be a joke.”
But the Kennedys had ushered in an era of celebrity politics, which trumped
qualifications in this case. Mr. Kennedy won the primary by a two-to-one ratio,
then went on to easy victory in November against the Republican candidate,
George Cabot Lodge, a member of an old-line Boston family that had clashed
politically with the Kennedys through the years.
When Mr. Kennedy entered the Senate in 1962, he was aware that he might be seen
as an upstart, with one brother in the White House and another in the cabinet.
He sought guidance on the very first day from one of the Senate’s most respected
elders, Richard Russell of Georgia. “You go further if you go slow,” Senator
Mr. Kennedy took things slowly, especially that first year. He did his homework,
was seen more than he was heard and was deferential to veteran legislators.
On Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, he was presiding over the Senate when a wire service
ticker in the lobby brought the news of John Kennedy’s shooting in Dallas.
Violence had claimed the second of Joseph Kennedy’s sons.
Edward was sent to Hyannis Port to break the news to his father, who had been
disabled by a stroke. He returned to Washington for the televised funeral and
burial, the first many Americans had seen of him. He and Robert had planned to
read excerpts from John’s speeches at the Arlington burial service. At the last
moment they chose not to.
A friend described him as “shattered — calm but shattered.”
A Deadly Plane Crash
Robert moved into the breach and was immediately discussed as a presidential
prospect. Edward became a more prominent family spokesman.
The next year, he was up for re-election. A heavy favorite from the start, he
was on his way to the state convention that was to renominate him when his light
plane crashed in a storm near Westfield, Mass. The pilot and a Kennedy aide were
killed, and Mr. Kennedy’s back and several ribs were broken. Senator Birch Bayh
of Indiana pulled Mr. Kennedy from the plane.
The senator was hospitalized for the next six months, suspended immobile between
a frame that resembled a waffle iron. His wife, Joan, carried on his campaign,
mainly by advising voters that he was steadily recovering. He won easily over a
little-known Republican, Howard Whitmore Jr.
During his convalescence, Mr. Kennedy devoted himself to his legislative work.
He was briefed by a parade of Harvard professors and began to develop his
positions on immigration, health care and civil rights.
“I never thought the time was lost,” he said later. “I had a lot of hours to
think about what was important and what was not and about what I wanted to do
with my life.”
He returned to the Senate in 1965, joining his brother Robert, who had won a
seat from New York. Edward promptly entered a major fight, his first. President
Lyndon B. Johnson’s Voting Rights Act was up for consideration, and Mr. Kennedy
tried to strengthen it with an amendment that would have outlawed poll taxes. He
lost by only four votes, serving lasting notice on his colleagues that he was a
rapidly maturing legislator who could prepare a good case and argue it
Mr. Kennedy was slow to oppose the war in Vietnam, but in 1968, shortly after
Robert decided to seek the presidency on an antiwar platform, Edward called the
war a “monstrous outrage.”
Robert Kennedy was shot on June 5, 1968, as he celebrated his victory in the
California primary, becoming the third of Joseph Kennedy’s sons to die a violent
death. Edward was in San Francisco at a victory celebration. He commandeered an
Air Force plane and flew to Los Angeles.
Frank Mankiewicz, Robert’s press secretary, saw Edward “leaning over the sink
with the most awful expression on his face.”
“Much more than agony, more than anguish — I don’t know if there’s a word for
it,” Mr. Mankiewicz said, recalling the encounter in “Edward M. Kennedy: A
Biography,” by Adam Clymer (William Morrow, 1999).
Robert’s death draped Edward in the Kennedy mantle long before he was ready for
it and forced him to confront his own mortality. But he summoned himself to
deliver an eloquent eulogy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
“My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in
life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried
to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it,”
Mr. Kennedy said, his voice faltering. “Those of us who loved him and who take
him to his rest today pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others
will someday come to pass for all the world.”
A New Role as Patriarch
After the funeral, Edward Kennedy withdrew from public life and spent several
months brooding, much of it while sailing off the New England coast.
Near the end of the summer of 1968, he emerged from seclusion, the sole survivor
of Joseph Kennedy’s boys, ready to take over as family patriarch and substitute
father to John’s and Robert’s 13 children, seemingly eager to get on with what
he called his “public responsibilities.”
“There is no safety in hiding,” he declared in a speech at Holy Cross College in
Worcester, Mass., in August. “Like my brothers before me, I pick up a fallen
standard. Sustained by the memory of our priceless years together, I shall try
to carry forward that special commitment to justice, excellence and courage that
distinguished their lives.”
There was some talk of his running for president at that point. But he
ultimately endorsed Hubert H. Humphrey in his losing campaign to Richard M.
Mr. Kennedy focused more on bringing the war in Vietnam to an end and on
building his Senate career. Although only 36, he challenged Senator Russell B.
Long of Louisiana, one of the shrewdest, most powerful legislators on Capitol
Hill, for the post of deputy majority leader. Fellow liberals sided with him,
and he edged Mr. Long by five votes to become the youngest assistant majority
leader, or whip, in Senate history.
He plunged into the new job with Kennedy enthusiasm. But fate, and the Kennedy
recklessness, intervened on July 18, 1969. Mr. Kennedy had been at a party with
several women who had been aides to Robert. The party, a liquor-soaked barbecue,
was held at a rented cottage on Chappaquiddick Island, off Martha’s Vineyard. He
left around midnight with Mary Jo Kopechne, 28, took a turn away from the ferry
landing and drove the car off a narrow bridge on an isolated beach road. The car
sank in eight feet of water, but he managed to escape. Miss Kopechne, a former
campaign worker for Robert, drowned.
Mr. Kennedy did not report the accident to the authorities for almost 10 hours,
explaining later that he had been so banged about by the crash that he had
suffered a concussion, and that he had become so exhausted while trying to
rescue Miss Kopechne that he had gone immediately to bed. A week later, he
pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident and was given a
two-month suspended sentence.
But that was far from the end of the incident. Questions lingered in the minds
of the Massachusetts authorities and of the general public. Why was the car on
an isolated road? Had he been drinking? (Mr. Kennedy testified at an inquest
that he had had two drinks.) What sort of relationship did Mr. Kennedy and Miss
Kopechne have? Could she have been saved if he had sought help immediately? Why
did the senator tell his political advisers about the accident before reporting
it to the police?
The controversy became so intense that Mr. Kennedy went on television to ask
Massachusetts voters whether he should resign from office. He conceded that his
actions after the crash had been “indefensible.” But he steadfastly denied any
His constituents sent word that he should remain in the Senate. And little more
than a year later, he easily won re-election to a second full term, again
defeating a little-known Republican, Josiah A. Spaulding, by a three-to-two
ratio. But his heart did not seem to be in his work any longer. He was sometimes
absent from Senate sessions and neglected his whip duties. Senator Byrd, of West
Virginia, took the job away from him by putting together a coalition of Southern
and border-state Democrats to vote him out.
That loss shook Mr. Kennedy out of his lethargy. He rededicated himself to his
role as a legislator. “It hurts like hell to lose,” he said, “but now I can get
around the country more. And it frees me to spend more time on issues I’m
interested in.” Many years later, he became friends with Mr. Byrd and told him
the defeat had been the best thing that could have happened in his Senate
Turmoil at Home
In the next decade, Mr. Kennedy expanded on his national reputation, first
pushing to end the war in Vietnam, then concentrating on his favorite
legislative issues, especially civil rights, health, taxes, criminal laws and
deregulation of the airline and trucking industries. He traveled the country,
making speeches that kept him in the public eye.
But when he was mentioned as a possible candidate for president in 1972, he
demurred; and when the Democratic nominee, George S. McGovern, offered him the
vice-presidential nomination, Mr. Kennedy again said no, not wanting to face the
inevitable Chappaquiddick questions.
In 1973, his son Edward M. Kennedy Jr., then 12, developed a bone cancer that
cost him a leg. The next year, Mr. Kennedy took himself out of the 1976 race.
Instead, Mr. Kennedy easily won a third full term in the Senate, and Jimmy
Carter, a former one-term governor of Georgia, moved into the White House.
In early 1978, Mr. Kennedy’s wife, Joan, moved out of their sprawling
contemporary house overlooking the Potomac River near McLean, Va., a Washington
suburb. She took up residence in an apartment of her own in Boston, saying she
wanted to “explore options other than being a housewife and mother.” But she
also acknowledged a problem with alcohol, and conceded that she was increasingly
uncomfortable with the pressure-cooker life that went with membership in the
Kennedy clan. She began studying music and enrolled in a program for alcoholics.
The separation posed not only personal but also political problems for the
senator. After Mrs. Kennedy left for Boston, there were rumors that linked the
senator with other women. He maintained that he still loved his wife and
indicated that the main reason for the separation was Mrs. Kennedy’s desire to
work out her alcohol problem. She subsequently campaigned for him in the 1980
race, but there was never any real reconciliation, and they eventually entered
Although Mr. Kennedy supported Mr. Carter in 1976, by late 1978 he was
disenchanted. Polls indicated that the senator was becoming popular while the
president was losing support. In December, at a midterm Democratic convention in
Memphis, Mr. Kennedy could hold back no longer. He gave a thundering speech
that, in retrospect, was the opening shot in the 1980 campaign.
“Sometimes a party must sail against the wind,” he declared, referring to Mr.
Carter’s economic belt-tightening and political caution. “We cannot heed the
call of those who say it is time to furl the sail. The party that tore itself
apart over Vietnam in the 1960s cannot afford to tear itself apart today over
budget cuts in basic social programs.”
Mr. Kennedy did not then declare his candidacy. But draft-Kennedy groups began
to form in early 1979, and some Democrats up for re-election in 1980 began to
cast about for coattails that were longer than Mr. Carter’s.
After consulting advisers and family members over the summer of 1979, Mr.
Kennedy began speaking openly of challenging the president, and on Nov. 7, 1979,
he announced officially that he would run. “Our leaders have resigned themselves
to defeat,” he said.
The campaign was a disaster, badly organized and appearing to lack a political
or policy premise. His speeches were clumsy, and his delivery was frequently
stumbling and bombastic. And in the background, Chappaquiddick always loomed. He
won the New York and California primaries, but the victories were too little and
came too late to unseat Mr. Carter. At the party’s nominating convention in New
York, however, he stole the show with his “dream shall never die” speech.
With the approach of the 1984 election, there was the inevitable speculation
that Mr. Kennedy, who had easily won re-election to the Senate in 1982, would
again seek the presidency. He prepared and planned a campaign. But in the end he
chose not to run, saying he wanted to spare his family a repeat of the ordeal
they went through in 1980. Skeptics said he also knew he could not fight the
undertow of Chappaquiddick.
A Full-On Senate Focus
Freed at last of the expectation that he should and would seek the White House,
Mr. Kennedy devoted himself fully to his day job in the Senate. He led the fight
for the 18-year-old vote, the abolition of the draft, deregulation of the
airline and trucking industries, and the post-Watergate campaign finance
legislation. He was deeply involved in renewals of the Voting Rights Act and the
Fair Housing law of 1968. He helped establish the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration. He built federal support for community health care centers,
increased cancer research financing and helped create the Meals on Wheels
program. He was a major proponent of a health and nutrition program for pregnant
women and infants.
When Republicans took over the Senate in 1981, Mr. Kennedy requested the ranking
minority position on the Labor and Public Welfare Committee, asserting that the
issues before the labor and welfare panel would be more important during the
In the years after his failed White House bid, Mr. Kennedy also established
himself as someone who made “lawmaker” mean more than a word used in headlines
to describe any member of Congress. Though his personal life was a mess until
his remarriage in the early 1990s, he never failed to show up prepared for a
committee hearing or a floor debate.
His most notable focus was civil rights, “still the unfinished business of
America,” he often said. In 1982, he led a successful fight to defeat the Reagan
administration’s effort to weaken the Voting Rights Act.
In one of those bipartisan alliances that were hallmarks of his legislative
successes, Mr. Kennedy worked with Senator Bob Dole, Republican of Kansas, to
secure passage of the voting rights measure, and Mr. Dole got most of the
Perhaps his greatest success on civil rights came in 1990 with passage of the
Americans with Disabilities Act, which required employers and public facilities
to make “reasonable accommodation” for the disabled. When the law was finally
passed, Mr. Kennedy and others told how their views on the bill had been shaped
by having relatives with disabilities. Mr. Kennedy cited his mentally disabled
sister, Rosemary, and his son who had lost a leg to cancer.
Mr. Kennedy was one of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s strongest allies in their
failed 1994 effort to enact national health insurance, a measure the senator had
been pushing, in one form or another, since 1969.
But he kept pushing incremental reforms, and in 1997, teaming with Senator
Hatch, Mr. Kennedy helped enact a landmark health care program for children in
low-income families, a program now known as the State Children’s Health
Insurance Program, or S-Chip.
He led efforts to increase aid for higher education and win passage of Mr.
Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. He pushed for increases in the federal minimum
wage. He helped win enactment of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, one of
the largest expansions of government health aid ever.
He was a forceful and successful opponent of the confirmation of Robert H. Bork
to the Supreme Court. In a speech delivered within minutes of President Reagan’s
nomination of Mr. Bork in 1987, Mr. Kennedy made an attack that even friendly
commentators called demagogic. Mr. Bork’s “extremist view of the Constitution,”
he said, meant that “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be
forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters,
rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, and
schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be
censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be
shut on the fingers of millions of Americans.”
Some of Mr. Kennedy’s success as a legislator can be traced to the quality and
loyalty of his staff, considered by his colleagues and outsiders alike to be the
best on Capitol Hill.
“He has one of the most distinguished alumni associations of any U.S. senator,”
said Ross K. Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University who has worked
in Congress. “To have served in even a minor capacity in the Kennedy office or
on one of his committees is a major entry in anyone’s résumé.”
Those who have worked for Mr. Kennedy include Stephen G. Breyer, appointed to
the Supreme Court by President Clinton; Gregory B. Craig, now the White House
counsel; and Kenneth R. Feinberg, the Obama administration’s top official for
Mr. Kennedy “deserves recognition not just as the leading senator of his time,
but as one of the greats in its history, wise in the workings of this singular
institution, especially its demand to be more than partisan to accomplish much,”
Mr. Clymer wrote in his biography.
“The deaths and tragedies around him would have led others to withdraw. He never
quits, but sails against the wind.”
Mr. Kennedy is survived by his wife, known as Vicki; two sons, Edward M. Kennedy
Jr. of Branford, Conn., and United States Representative Patrick J. Kennedy of
Rhode Island; a daughter, Kara Kennedy Allen, of Bethesda, Md.; two
stepchildren, Curran Raclin and Caroline Raclin, and four grandchildren. His
former wife, Joan Kennedy, lives in Boston.
Mr. Kennedy is also survived by a sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, of New York. On
Aug. 11, his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver of Potomac, Md., died at age 88.
Another sister, Patricia Lawford Kennedy, died in 2006. His sister Rosemary died
in 2005, and his sister Kathleen died in a plane crash in 1948.
Their little brother Teddy was the youngest, the little bear whom everyone
cuddled, whom no one took seriously and from whom little was expected. He
reluctantly and at times awkwardly carried the Kennedy standard, with all it
implied and all it required. And yet, some scholars contend, he may have proved
himself the most worthy.
“He was a quintessential Kennedy, in the sense that he had all the warts as well
as all the charisma and a lot of the strengths,” said Norman J. Ornstein, a
political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute. “If his father, Joe,
had surveyed, from an early age up to the time of his death, all of his
children, his sons in particular, and asked to rank them on talents,
effectiveness, likelihood to have an impact on the world, Ted would have been a
very poor fourth. Joe, John, Bobby ... Ted.
“He was the survivor,” Mr. Ornstein continued. “He was not a shining star that
burned brightly and faded away. He had a long, steady glow. When you survey the
impact of the Kennedys on American life and politics and policy, he will end up
by far being the most significant.”
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday night abandoned efforts to fashion a
government rescue of the American automobile industry, as Senate Republicans
refused to support a bill endorsed by the White House and Congressional
The failure to reach agreement on Capitol Hill raised a specter of financial
collapse for General Motors and Chrysler, which say they may not be able to
survive through this month.
After Senate Republicans balked at supporting a $14 billion auto rescue plan
approved by the House on Wednesday, negotiators worked late into Thursday
evening to broker a deal but deadlocked over Republican demands for steep cuts
in pay and benefits by the United Automobile Workers union in 2009.
The failure in Congress to provide a financial lifeline for G.M. and Chrysler
was a bruising defeat for President Bush in the waning weeks of his term, and
also for President-elect Barack Obama, who earlier on Thursday urged Congress to
act to avoid a further loss of jobs in an already deeply debilitated economy.
“It’s over with,” the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said on the
Senate floor, after it was clear that a deal could not be reached. “I dread
looking at Wall Street tomorrow. It’s not going to be a pleasant sight.”
Mr. Reid added: “This is going to be a very, very bad Christmas for a lot of
people as a result of what takes place here tonight.”
The Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said: “We have had
before us this whole question of the viability of the American automobile
manufacturers. None of us want to see them go down, but very few of us had
anything to do with the dilemma that they have created for themselves.”
Mr. McConnell added: “The administration negotiated in good faith with the
Democratic majority a proposal that was simply unacceptable to the vast majority
of our side because we thought it frankly wouldn’t work.”
Moments later, the Senate fell short of the 60 votes need to bring up the auto
rescue plan for consideration. The Senate voted 52 to 35 with 10 Republicans
joining 40 Democrats and 2 independents in favor.
The White House said it would consider alternatives but offered no assurances.
“It’s disappointing that Congress failed to act tonight,” Tony Fratto, the
deputy press secretary, said. “We think the legislation we negotiated provided
an opportunity to use funds already appropriated for automakers, and presented
the best chance to avoid a disorderly bankruptcy while ensuring taxpayer funds
only go to firms whose stakeholders were prepared to make difficult decisions to
become viable. We will evaluate our options in light of the breakdown in
Markets reacted quickly in Asia. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index closed down 5.6
percent after the proposal failed and other markets registered substantial
retreats as well.
Immediately after the vote, the Bush administration was already coming under
pressure to act on its own to prop up G.M. and Chrysler, an idea that
administration officials have resisted for weeks.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers called on the administration to
use the Treasury’s bigger financial system stabilization fund to help the
automakers, but there may not be enough money left to do so.
About $15 billion remains of the initial $350 billion disbursed by Congress and
Treasury officials have said that money is needed as a backstop for existing
Democrats instantly sought to blame Republicans for the failure to aid Detroit,
while a number of Republicans blamed the union. But on all sides the usual zest
for political jousting seemed absent given the grim economic outlook.
“Senate Republicans’ refusal to support the bipartisan legislation passed by the
House and negotiated in good faith with the White House, the Senate and the
automakers is irresponsible, especially at a time of economic hardship,” Ms.
Pelosi said in a statement.
She added: “The consequences of the Senate Republicans’ failure to act could be
devastating to our economy, detrimental to workers, and destructive to the
American automobile industry unless the President immediately directs Secretary
Paulson to explore other short-term financial assistance options.”
Senator George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, and a supporter of the auto
rescue efforts, said: “I think it might be time for the president to step in.”
Senator Christopher S. Bond, Republican of Missouri, also urged the White House
So far, the Federal Reserve also has shown no willingness to step in to aid the
Democrats have argued that the Fed has the authority to do so and some said the
central bank may now have no choice but to prevent the automakers from entering
bankruptcy proceedings that could have ruinous ripple effects.
G.M. and Chrysler issued statements expressing disappointment.
G.M. said: “We will assess all of our options to continue our restructuring and
to obtain the means to weather the current economic crisis.”
Chrysler said it would: “continue to pursue a workable solution to help ensure
the future viability of the company.”
Earlier in the day, G.M. said that it had legal advisers, including Harvey R.
Miller of the firm Weil Gotshal & Manges, to consider a possible bankruptcy,
which the company until now has said would be cataclysmic not just for G.M. but
for Chrysler and the Ford Motor Company as well.
Ford, which is better financial shape than its competitors, had said it would
not seek the emergency short-term loans for the government, but urged Congress
to help its competitors because the fates of the Big Three are so closely
The rescue plan approved by the House on Wednesday, by a vote of 237 to 170,
would have extended $14 billion in loans to the G.M. and Chrysler and required
them to submit to broad government oversight directed by a car czar to be named
by Mr. Bush.
But even before the House vote, Senate Republicans voiced strong opposition to
the plan, which was negotiated by Democrats and the White House.
At a luncheon with White House chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, on Wednesday
they rebuffed his entreaties for support.
And on Thursday morning, Mr. McConnell dealt a death blow to the House-passed
bill, giving a speech on the Senate floor in which he said that Republican
senators would not support it mainly because it was not tough enough.
“In the end, it’s greatest single flaw is that it promises taxpayer money today
for reforms that may or may not come tomorrow,” Mr. McConnell said.
Mr. McConnell, however, held out slim hope for a compromise suggesting that
Republicans could rally around a proposal by Senator Bob Corker, Republican of
Tennessee, to set stiffer requirements for the automakers.
Mr. Obama, whose transition team consulted with Congressional Democrats and the
White House on the efforts to help the automakers, urged Congress to act in his
opening remarks at a news conference on Thursday in Chicago.
“I believe our government should provide short-term assistance to the auto
industry to avoid a collapse while holding the companies accountable and
protecting taxpayer interests,” he said. “The legislation in Congress right now
is an important step in that direction, and I’m hopeful that a final agreement
can be reached this week.”
But in Washington, there was little appetite among Senate Republicans for yet
another multibillion-dollar bailout of private companies. Still, with the
Democrats and the White House eager to reach a deal, Mr. Corker’s proposal
became the subject of intense negotiations well into the evening.
Under his plan, the automakers would have been required by March 31 to slash
their debt obligations by two-thirds — an enormous sum given that G.M. alone has
more than $60 billion in outstanding debt.
The automakers would also have been required to cut wages and benefits to match
the average hourly wage and benefits of Nissan, Toyota and Honda employees in
the United States.
It was over this proposal that the talks ultimately deadlocked with Republicans
demanding that the automakers meet that goal by a certain date in 2009 and
Democrats and the union urging a deadline in 2011 when the U.A.W. contract
G.M. and Chrysler have said the two companies would likely not survive through
this month without government aid, and the companies had already agreed to carry
out sweeping reorganization plans in exchange for the help.
The negotiations over Mr. Corker’s proposals broke up about 8 p.m. and Mr.
Corker left to brief his Republican colleagues on the developments.
The Republicans senators emerged from their meeting an hour later having decided
they would not agree to a deal. Several blamed the autoworkers union.
“It sounds like the U.A.W. blew it up,” said Senator David Vitter, Republican of
Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the banking
committee and a leading critic of the auto bailout proposal, said: “We’re hoping
that the Democrats will continue to negotiate but I think we have reached a
point that labor has got to give. If they want a bill they can get one.”
The last-ditch negotiations made for a dramatic scene on the first floor of the
Capitol, where high-level lobbyists for G.M. and Ford, as well as Stephen A.
Feinberg, the reclusive founder of Cerberus Capital Management, the private
equity firm that owns 80 percent of Chrysler, gathered with senators and
legislative staff in an ornate conference room.
A Democratic aide said that there were no lobbyists present who represented
At times, various participants huddled in corners of the cavernous hallway
outside the conference room, shielding their documents and whispering into their
cellphones, as a throng of reporters and photographers waited nearby.
Some of the lobbyists and banking committee staff members huddled by two
looking out on a frigid rain that had been falling all day.