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Kennedy Won’t Return to Hill This Week

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who was diagnosed last year with brain cancer and is undergoing treatment, will not return to Capitol Hill this week.

“Senator Kennedy is doing a good job at balancing his work on health care reform with his treatment plan, but he’s not planning to be back on the Hill this week,— spokesman Anthony Coley said Tuesday.

Kennedy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in May 2008 and underwent surgery at Duke University Medical Center last June. Since then, the 77-year-old Senator has spent time recovering in Florida and Massachusetts, with intervening visits back to Washington, D.C., for business, including the confirmation hearing of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Top White House officials have been underscoring the need for Congress to pass a major health care reform bill this year. Despite Kennedy’s absence, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, of which Kennedy serves as chairman, is crafting a bill that will be considered by the full Senate later this summer.

And while Kennedy will not attend Tuesday’s meeting between leading Democratic Senators and President Barack Obama on health care, Coley noted that Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) will serve in his absence.

Kennedy and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said in a joint statement released last week that “reforming the nation’s health care system to cut cost, improve quality and provide affordable coverage remains the top priority on our two committees.—

“We have worked together closely over many months and will continue to do so,— the statement added. “We intend to ensure that our committees report similar and complementary legislation that can be quickly merged into one bill for consideration on the Senate floor before the August recess.—

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