Throughout his career in the United States Senate, Senator Kennedy has authored more than 2500 bills.
Of those bills, several hundred have become Public Law, and have made a significant difference in the quality of life for the American people.
Senator Kennedy has championed the cause of quality healthcare for all Americans throughout his career in the Senate. Among the many landmark laws enacted under his leadership and sponsorship are the Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act of 1986, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act of 1990, the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997, the creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 1997 (“HIPAA”), the Children's Health Act of 2000, the Project BioShield Act of 2003, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2005, the FDA Amendments Act of 2007, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.
Creating a Federal Funding Stream to Feed the Elderly, Support Women and Children
In 1971, Kennedy introduced legislation to create a federal initiative patterned on volunteer programs in several states to feed the elderly, either with meals delivered to their homes or in group settings. Kennedy’s bill established permanent federal subsidies for these programs (the first was $250 million over two years), and he fought the Nixon Administration’s attempts to completely eliminate funding. In 2007, 141 million meals were delivered to 916,000 individuals and 95 million meals were provided to 1.6 million seniors in community locations. It is estimated that over 6 billion meals have been served since Kennedy’s bill was signed into law.
In 1972 Kennedy was also a prominent figure in establishing the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC). The program offers food, nutrition counseling, and access to health services for low-income women, infants, and children. The first year WIC was authorized, 88,000 women and children participated. In 2008 alone, that number had grown to 8.7 million.
Enhancing Bioterrorism Preparedness
As the threat for bio-terrorism increased during the last 10 years of Kennedy’s Senate service, he worked aggressively to establish the governmental infrastructure necessary to protect the American public. In 2000, Senator Kennedy was the chief sponsor of bipartisan legislation, the Public Health Threats and Emergencies Act, which – by strengthening the nation’s public health infrastructure and required planning for public health emergencies – laid the groundwork for essential improvements to our public health preparedness against bio-terrorism. His planning proved invaluable when the nation faced anthrax attacks the following year.
Enhancing Food Safety
Protecting consumers was a major priority of Senator Kennedy and in 2003, Congress passed his bill to require clear labeling of the major food allergens on packaged foods, as well as better labeling of foods that are gluten free.
Under Senator Kennedy’s Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, seven million Americans with food allergies can now readily identify a product’s ingredients more easily and avoid foods that may harm them.
His legislation also required the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor deaths related to food allergies and directs the National Institutes of Health to develop a plan for research on food allergies.
Advocating for Civil Rights and Voting Rights
On April, 9, 1964, barely four months after the passing of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Kennedy took to the Senate floor and gave his maiden speech. He chose as his topic the paramount domestic issue of the day, civil rights, and urged support of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination in employment, education and public accommodations.
African Americans in the South were demanding equal opportunity and treatment, and their movement, anchored in non-violence, captured the attention of a nation. As America and the world watched the sit-ins and marches, the participants being attacked by police dogs and water hoses; their churches bombed - Ted Kennedy, then a young, freshman senator, was moved to action.
Barely two years into his first term, 33 year-old Kennedy, went to work on the one major legislative initiative leading civil rights organizations wanted but the Johnson Administration did not embrace, eliminating the poll tax.
On March 24, 1966, the Supreme Court vindicated Kennedy by declaring the poll tax unconstitutional, which paved the way for many more voting rights' victories.
Reforming the Immigration System
Senator Kennedy’s first major legislative initiative was the Immigration Act of 1965. The Act was a turning point in American immigration policy because it reformed the way immigrants were selected for admission to the U.S. It ended the selection of immigrants on the basis of their national origin that began in 1924 – a system that discriminated on the basis of race or ancestry.
The Act gradually phased out the national origin quotas system and replaced it with a preference system that gave priority to immigrants based on their skills and family relationships. The circumstances, which led to the repeal of the quota system were a combination of changing public perceptions, politics, and legislative compromise. Public support for the repeal reflected changing public attitudes towards race and national origin. The Act was a product of the mid-sixties, and a heavily Democratic 89th Congress, which produced major civil rights legislation.
Promoting Gender Equity
Senator Kennedy was a champion of the Equal Rights Amendment for over 30 years, which would enshrine in the Constitution the principle of equality for men and women. He was in the forefront of Senate leadership that won its passage in Congress in 1972 and reintroduced the legislation again in the 110th Congress.
He was a key supporter of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, which protects women from discrimination in educational institutions and has increased athletic opportunities for young women attending colleges and universities around the country.
Higher Education and Job Training
Senator Kennedy has been a driving force throughout his years in the Senate to see that every student who desires to enroll in college can afford to do so. Since the original Higher Education Act of 1965, Senator Kennedy worked to open the doors of opportunity for all Americans.
In the first re-authorization of the Higher Education Act in 1968, Senator Kennedy supported the creation of the Student Support Services program. This program, along with Upward Bound and Talent Search, which were created in the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and the Higher Education Act of 1965, respectively, provided tutoring, mentoring and other assistance, to low-income, first generation college students to increase their retention and graduation rates. These three programs are currently known as the TRIO programs. Notable TRIO participants include TV personality Oprah Winfrey, actress Angela Bassett and Franklin Chang-Diaz, the first Hispanic
Raising the Minimum Wage
Senator Kennedy was the leading Congressional proponent of a fair minimum wage, which was increased 16 times during his nearly half century of Senate service. While serving as Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Senator Kennedy’s most recent efforts culminated in 2007 with the first increase in the federal minimum wage in a decade. Thirteen million American workers, including the parents of more than six million children, benefited from the raise, which increased the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour in three phases.
Holding Oil Companies Accountable
During consideration of a 1975 tax cut proposal, Kennedy introduced a provision targeting the oil depletion allowance, which since 1926 had enabled oil producers to exclude 22 percent of their revenues from any taxes. Kennedy’s initiative passed overwhelmingly, trimming the allowance for independent producers and ending it for the major oil companies.
Read more about the accomplishments of Senator Edward M. Kennedy by clicking here.