America lost a great elder statesman, a committed public servant, and leader of the Senate, and I lost a treasured friend.
Ted Kennedy was an iconic, larger than life United States Senator whose influence cannot be overstated. Many have come before, and many will come after, but Ted Kennedy's name will always be remembered as someone who lived and breathed the United States Senate and the work completed within its chamber.
When I first came to the United States Senate I was filled with conservative fire in my belly and an itch to take on any and everyone who stood in my way, including Ted Kennedy. As I began working within the confines of my office I soon found out that while we almost always disagreed on most issues, once in a while we could actually get together and find the common ground, which is essential in passing legislation.
For almost two decades we alternated as Chairman and Ranking Members of the Senate Labor Committee, now called the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. During this time we were able to come together in a bipartisan fashion to craft some of this nation's most important health legislation. In the current climate of today's United States Senate it is rare to find opportunities where both sides can come together and work in the middle to craft a solution for our country's problems. Ted Kennedy, with all of his ideological verbosity and idealism was a rare person who at times could put aside differences and look for common solutions. Not many ever got to see that side of him, but as peers and colleagues we were able to share some of those moments.
Elaine and I express our deepest condolences to Ted's beloved wife Vickie, and their extended family. I am hopeful that they will find peace and comfort in the memories and life they were able to share with this giant of a man. A few highlights of Kennedy-Hatch legislative accomplishments include: Orphan Drug Act - provided tax credits for encouraging the development of medicines for rare diseases. Ryan White Aids Act - which established a federally funded program for people living with HIV/AIDS, with an emphasis on providing funding to improve availability of care for low-income, uninsured, and under-insured victims of AIDS and their families. State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) - provided health insurance to thousands of the working poor across our country. Mammography Standards in 1992; Americans with Disabilities Act - provided individual protections from discrimination against individuals with disabilities. FDA Revitalization Act of 2007 - addressed many critical issues including the need to provide proper incentives and support for the development and review of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and the need for heightened efforts to assure the safety of medications; PDUFA - a program that created drug user fees to help expedite the approval of new drugs. This legislation continues to be reauthorized; Health Centers Renewal Act of 2007 - reauthorized the health center program for five more years and provided people with essential health care services; FDAMA - FDA Modernization Act of 1997 - regulated prescription drug advertising, food safety, and codified the requirements for access to life saving medicines; Bioshield Legislation - increased federal, state, and local infrastructure for bioterrorism preparedness; Serve America Act, which renewed America's call for volunteer service to meet some of our country's most challenging problems and needs.