McCain: Kennedy's Absence Is Damaging Health Care's Prospects

Health care legislation would be in a "very different place today," if Senator Ted Kennedy, (D-Mass) were healthy enough to participate in negotiations, Kennedy's longtime colleague and occasional foe, Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.), said on Sunday.

In an appearance on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," McCain said that the Massachusetts Democrat, stricken by brain cancer, was "as close to being indispensable as any individual I've ever known in the Senate." Without him, McCain added, the health care debate had stagnated far more than had he been in the chamber.

"He had a unique way of sitting down with the parties at a table and making the right concessions, which really are the essence of successful negotiations," McCain said. "So it's huge that he's absent, not only because of my personal affection for him, but because I think the health care reform might be in a very different place today."

Kennedy has reportedly kept on top of health care legislation's progress in Congress from his family compound in Hyannis Port. This past week, the longtime Senator wrote a letter to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and the state legislature, urging the institution of a succession process whereby the Governor would be allowed to make an immediate Senate replacement until the state could hold a special election. The Boston Globe reported that state lawmakers have coolly received the proposal, with Republicans claiming it to be a partisan power grab.