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Interim Senator Kirk Makes Health Vote In Kennedy's Stead02:08
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Sen. Paul Kirk, D-Mass. speaks about health care reform during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009. (AP)
Sen. Paul Kirk, D-Mass. speaks about health care reform during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009. (AP)

Though he called it the cause of his life, the late Edward M. Kennedy never got to cast his Senate vote for health care reform. The measure passed early Thursday by a margin of 60-39.

Massachusetts interim Sen. Paul Kirk said Kennedy would have been proud that his state "provided the crucial 60th vote to pass this historic legislation."

Shortly after the bill's passage, Kirk expanded on his point in an interview with WBUR's Bob Oakes.

"There's always the twinge and hint of sadness that goes with the fact that he couldn't cast his vote himself, but it is a great day," said Kirk.

When asked of the possible thoughts of Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the late Senator's widow who was present in the Capitol Hill chamber Thursday, Kirk said, "I was thinking the same thing she was, that she was elated that the U.S. Senate was taking this step after all the weary fight that Ted Kennedy put up for this cause.  It's a remarkable day of joy for her."

Kirk then admitted to challenges ahead, as the Senate bill must be merged with the House of Representative's version in conference. Kirk highlighted questions on abortion language and whether high incomes or expensive, so-called "Cadillac plans" should be taxed.

And though the Senate's bill rejected a public option, Kirk expressed some hope that the measure could reappear when the two versions are merged.

For those with less expensive insurance plans, Kirk also made a point to assuage concerns about broad-based taxes.

"Those who have the so-called 'Cadillac plan' might end up with a tax levied in that particular instance," said Kirk. "But spreading the risk across the pool should bring premiums down and, for the most part, there wouldn't be a tax on the average insurance policy."

As with other Democratic legislators Thursday, Kirk downplayed potential conference differences and, instead, stressed the significance of the bill.

"I'm quite confident that we'll get a first step toward universal and national health insurance that the American people deserve and that Ted Kennedy fought for through his public life."

Click "Listen Now" to hear Bob Oakes interview Sen. Paul Kirk.

This program aired on December 25, 2009.

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