Mourners use Kennedy's passing as catalyst for health bill

The passing of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) late Tuesday night has quickly become a catalyst for healthcare reform among his mourners, seeking to follow through on what the late senator called "the cause of my life."

Supporters of the healthcare reform bills before Congress, on which Kennedy had placed his imprimatur, summoned the liberal senator's legacy on Wednesday in speaking about health legislation's prospects in the future.

"Senator Kennedy said that 'health care is the fight of his life,'" Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in his statement on Kennedy's death. "Today, we pick up the torch and recommit ourselves to health insurance reform."

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who took over Kennedy's spot as head of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in the senator's absence, made note of Kennedy's legacy on healthcare.

The statements build on a perhaps obvious theme in statements by supporters of healthcare reform that will emerge today, drawing on Kennedy's cachet on healthcare to advance Kennedy's most prized legislative priority.

"He fought to the very end for the cause of his life -- ensuring that all Americans have the health care they need," Dodd said in a statement.

One of the top labor unions supporting health reform bills before the House and Senate also called on the Congress to "build on Senator Kennedy's vision of America" and pass healthcare reform.

"In Senator Kennedy