Sen. Edward Kennedy

  • November 12, 2015
    Lion of the Senate
    When Ted Kennedy Rallied the Democrats in a GOP Congress
    Nick Littlefield and David Nexon

    by Nick Littlefield and David Nexon

    The just-published Lion of the Senate offers an insider’s view of several remarkable years when Senator Edward Kennedy fought to preserve the Democratic mission against Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and a Republican majority in both houses. He not only prevailed; he was able to pass important progressive legislation even in that highly partisan, bitterly divided Congress. That story has special resonance today as a resurgent Republican right once again controls Congress and as the policy gridlock seems hopeless.   

    Nick and I were both senior policy advisors to the Senator during the period the book covers—roughly1995-1997. Nick was Senator Kennedy’s staff director on the Labor and Human Resources Committee (now the HELP Committee) and I was head of the senator’s health policy staff.  Lion of the Senate is the story of Kennedy at the height of his powers waging the fight of his life against then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and the conservative movement he led. The 1995-1996 Republican House and Senate with Bill Clinton in the White House mirror the fraught circumstances on Capitol Hill today, as President Obama and the Democrats in Congress face an equally determined Republican majority seeking to enact essentially the same agenda that Kennedy defeated in the 1995-1996. In a striking parallel, today’s Republicans, like those of the Gingrich era, have used the threat of a government shutdown and even loan default to achieve their goals. What the Senator accomplished and how he did it is both an exciting narrative and a blueprint for today’s Democrats.

    In addition to its contemporary relevance, The Lion of the Senate is, I think, a book that many in the ACS community will enjoy because of their interest in politics and their long alliance with Senator Kennedy on so many issues. Told from Nick’s point of view, it is a close-up account of how Kennedy rallied the Democrats to resist and ultimately defeat the Gingrich agenda and broke through the partisan gridlock to pass a minimum wage increase, important health insurance regulatory reform, and the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The book reveals why Kennedy was such a towering figure as a politician and a legislator, what it was like to be a Senate staffer working for him, and provides a vivid picture of how the Senate operates. 

  • February 4, 2010
    Check out the revamped online version of Harvard Law & Policy Review (HLPR), the official journal of ACS. The new Web site includes journal articles and frequently updated content, including commentary on legal and policy issues, book reviews and a forum for student writing. The recent issue of HLPR explores solutions to the nation's soaring incarceration rates and includes articles by Sharon Dolovich, Judge Nancy Gertner, and Nkechi Taifa and Catherine Beane.

    Archived journal articles, many influential, are also available online, including a 2008 article by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy called "Restoring the Civil rights Division." That article was cited in a recent speech before ACS by Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez. Another journal article, by Cornell University scholars Kevin Clermont and Stewart Schwab, featuring information showing that employment discrimination lawsuits face uphill struggles in the federal courts, was highlighted by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy in a committee hearing. A recently featured article on the HLPR Web site, by Columbia Law School professor Jamal Greene studies "originalism" in context of the Supreme Court's ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the 5-4 majority led by Justice Antonin Scalia found that the Constitution does protect an individual right to posses firearms. 

  • December 3, 2009

    Congress is poised to release a report on the sharp drop in civil rights enforcement during George W. Bush's presidency. The 180-page General Accountability Office report is being made public today as the House of Representatives kicks off its first oversight hearings on the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama.

    "Despite, or perhaps because of, its importance and effectiveness, the Division has always been controversial," Sen. Edward Kennedy wrote last year in the Harvard Law and Policy Review, the official journal of ACS. "Under the Bush Administration, however, the vital cooperation between political appointees and career civil servants in the Division has broken down, with troubling consequences."

    Sen. Kennedy's insights were prescient.

    "When the Bush administration ran the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, career lawyers wanted to look into accusations that officials in one state had illegally intimidated blacks during a voter-fraud investigation," reports The Times' Charlie Savage today. "But division supervisors refused to 'approve further contact with state authorities on this matter,' according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office auditing the activities of the division from 2001 to 2007."

  • August 26, 2009
    We note with sadness the passing of U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a leading advocate of progressive ideals and a friend to ACS. Sen. Kennedy was a major draw at a 2002 ACS national event and more recently he authored an article for the summer 2008 volume of the Harvard Law & Policy Review (HLPR), the official journal of ACS, on the work of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

    A passionate and eloquent voice for the advancement of civil rights, Sen. Kennedy took great interest in the effectives of the Civil Rights Division, and in his article for HLPR wrote that during the Bush administration, a politicization of the Division had resulted in "significant damage to the Division's effectiveness, its reputation, and the morale of its career employees." In Restoring the Civil Rights Division, Kennedy maintained that the Division must be made devoid of political agendas and "return to its historic mission of addressing discrimination based on race in employment, education, housing, and voting."

    In a statement lauding Kennedy's life and work, President Obama said, "An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States senator of our time."

    Additional articles and tributes recognizing Kennedy:

    The New York Times, Edward Kennedy, Senate Stalwart, Dies.

    The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times, Kennedy's Legal Legacy.

    Los Angeles Times, Edward Kennedy dies at 77; ‘liberal lion of the Senate.'

    The Washington Post, Colleagues, Leaders, Locals Mourn Senate ‘Patriarch.'

    Boston Globe, Kennedy dead at 77.

    Also watch The Huffington Post's "video retrospective" of Kennedy, by clicking the image below.