Chemo Keeps Kennedy From Health Care Debate

Sen. Ted Kennedy has been weakened by a new round of treatment for his brain cancer and will likely miss the debate on the healthcare overhaul he designed, according to a report.

The Senate lion who called health care reform the "cause of my life" has been depleted by the new rounds of chemotherapy he has undergone to treat the malignant glioma he was diagnosed with in May 2008, the Hill reported.

"He's great for three or four hours a day and then gets tired," a senior Democratic lawmaker told the Hill.  

Kennedy, 77, said he didn't want his health to affect the legislative debate that could span for as long as two weeks starting June 16 and asked his colleagues to continue in his absence.

"As Sen. Kennedy has said many times, guaranteeing that all Americans have access to affordable and quality healthcare is the cause of his life," said spokesman Anthony Coley. "He's been a leader on this issue for 40 years, and he continues to lead. That doesn't depend on location." 

Kennedy handed over leadership of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee to longtime friend Sen. Chris Dodd, who has been told to move reform on healthcare through the committee, a senior aide to Kennedy told the Hill.

"You never know with this stuff -- he may make it back," the aide said. "The instruction was: 'Go forth.'"

He said Kennedy is "doing well and continues to balance his work on health reform with his treatment plan." 

Kennedy, who was supposed to have returned fo the Senate full-time by now, has returned just a handful of times since he was diagnosed. He collapsed in January during a lunch celebrating President Barack Obama's inauguration. 

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