Funeral Plans: Boston Viewing, Arlington Burial
WASHINGTON - The final act of Sen. Edward Kennedy's half-century in the spotlight begins today with a public viewing in Boston. It concludes Saturday when the patriarch of America's best-known political dynasty is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery next to his slain brothers.
Kennedy's remains will be moved this morning from his family compound in Hyannis Port, Mass., where he lost a battle with brain cancer Tuesday at the age of 77, to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Public visitation will continue until Friday afternoon. Invitations are required for other observances, beginning with a memorial service at the library that night.
The funeral Mass will take place in Boston's Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, a church where the senator prayed daily during daughter Kara's successful battle with cancer. Kennedy will be buried across the river from the Capitol he dominated.
Among the eulogists: President Obama and his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
"An important chapter in our history has come to an end," Obama said on Martha's Vineyard, where he is vacationing. He described himself as "heartbroken."
McCain wistfully recalled Kennedy's "booming voice" that "will never encourage or assail or impress us again."
After John Kennedy's assassination in 1963 and the slaying of Sen. Robert Kennedy during his 1968 presidential campaign, Edward Moore Kennedy - the youngest of four brothers - became the family's standard-bearer.
Initially, the man known as "Teddy" foundered. A series of self-inflicted personal crises - including a 1969 car crash in Chappaquiddick, Mass., that killed passenger Mary Jo Kopechne - and the failure of his 1980 challenge to President Carter sent Kennedy back to the Senate to rebuild his reputation.
By the time of his death, Kennedy was a respected dealmaker. Republicans, such as McCain and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, have said Obama's health care plan might be closer to reality had illness not removed Kennedy from talks on an issue the senator repeatedly called "the cause of my life."
Some Democrats vow to make Kennedy's unfulfilled goal his legacy. "Ted Kennedy's dream of quality health care for all Americans will be made real this year because of his leadership and his inspiration," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
That may be difficult in the Senate, where Kennedy's death deprives Democrats of the 60th vote needed to override a GOP filibuster.
In a letter last week, Kennedy urged Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, and state legislative leaders to change the law so Patrick can appoint a temporary Senate successor.
Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo told reporters he will begin polling state lawmakers "once the proper time of mourning has passed."