McCain: health reform might have gone further had Kennedy been around

There would have been more progress made on healthcare legislation this year had the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) been able to participate in negotiations, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday.

McCain, memorializing his fallen Senate colleague during an appearance on CNN, said that talks over the bill would have certainly been more serious than they are now, had Kennedy had the chance to be involved.

"I think we may have made progress on this health care issue if he had been there," McCain said. "He had this unique capability to sit people down at a table together -- and I've been there on numerous occasions -- and really negotiate, which means concessions."

The healthcare bill that came out of Kennedy's former committee, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, has stalled in the Senate as Republicans have been unwilling to compromise on elements of the legislation, most notably the inclusion of a public (or "government-run") option for Americans.

McCain said that the negotiations over the bill would have had more weight with Kennedy's involvement.

"I think we would have made great progress. I'm not positive...of the outcome, but I know there would have been serious negotiations," McCain said. "So far, there really has not been serious negotiations, in all due respect. And that would have happened."

McCain praised Kennedy's ability to keep his word on commitments and compromises, citing it as a vital trait in being able to pass through legislation.

Kennedy, of course, is being eulogized Wednesday as one of the all-time masters of the Senate, having authored more than 2,500 pieces of legislation during his decades as a senator from Massachusetts.