Kennedy not returning to Senate this week

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) will not return to work on Capitol Hill this week despite speculation he would return after the Memorial Day recess.

Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, was expected to chair hearings on healthcare reform as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

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"Sen. Kennedy is doing a good job at balancing his work on healthcare reform with his treatment plan, but he's not planning to be back on the Hill this week," said Kennedy spokesman Anthony Coley. He offered no indication when the senator would return.

Before the recess began, several senators said Kennedy would return the first week of June to chair markup hearings on his signature issue.

A copy of the HELP committee schedule obtained by The Hill has the panel starting its markup of the healthcare reform bill on June 16. Six days are scheduled for the markup, which the committee hopes to complete on June 25.

After suffering a seizure on May 17 of last year, Kennedy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor called glioma. He underwent surgery at Duke University and has undergone chemotherapy treatment while recovering at his homes in Massachusetts and Florida.

Away from Capitol Hill, Kennedy has continued to play a large role on healthcare reform by working with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Healthcare reform is a major part of President Obama's agenda that the president is hoping to accomplish this year.

Last weekend, Kennedy and Baucus said in a joint statement that "reforming the nation's healthcare 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 senators 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."