Kennedy and the GOP: A marriage of mutual respect

Despite his affinity for liberal policymaking, Republicans on Capitol Hill greatly admired Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

“He’s a legislator’s legislator,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told The Hill last May, immediately after Kennedy’s diagnosis of brain cancer. “At the end of the day, he wants to legislate, he understands how, and he understands compromise. And it’s worth talking about because it shows how people with drastically different points of view can come together.”

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In April, The Hill conducted a survey of all sitting senators to ask which member of the opposing party they most enjoyed working with. The most common answer among Republicans was Kennedy, being specifically mentioned by Kyl, Orrin HatchOrrin HatchChaffetz's campaign arm registers 2028 websites The Hill's 12:30 Report Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE of Utah, Kit Bond of Missouri, Richard BurrRichard BurrFive questions for the House's new Russia investigator Why an independent counsel is necessary in an election probe Senators aim to extend federal conservation fund MORE of North Carolina, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Mike EnziMike EnziTrump should work with Congress to block regulations on prepaid cards GOP wrestles with big question: What now? Top Dem: Trump's State Dept. cuts a 'Ponzi scheme' MORE of Wyoming, Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonMedicare’s coverage decisions need more input from physicians Five takeaways from the Georgia special election Live results: Georgia special election MORE of Georgia and Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsBecerra fires back: 'We're not in the business of deportation' Sessions on Hawaii comments: 'Nobody has a sense of humor anymore' Sessions: We'll get border wall paid for 'one way or the other' MORE of Alabama.

“I’d love to co-sponsor every piece of legislation with Ted Kennedy,” Burr said at the time. “When Ted says he’s going to do something, he’s committed to it.”

Kennedy’s 47 years in the Senate began as his brother, Democrat John F. Kennedy, was president and were marked by a legislative record of liberalism long and prominent enough to earn him his “Liberal Lion” moniker. Republican Party leaders even used him as a fundraising tool for years in races across the country.

In the Senate itself, though, the Massachusetts senator was mostly known by Republicans for his bipartisanship — for diligent, patient and consistent reaching across the aisle to find common ground on the country’s most pressing concerns. Eventually, some of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans, from Alan Simpson of Wyoming to Hatch to Kyl, came to discover that while Kennedy may have had the heart of a liberal, he possessed the mind of a pragmatist.

Republican leaders such as Conference Chairman Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderGroups warn of rural health 'crisis' under ObamaCare repeal Trump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight Trump faces risky ObamaCare choice MORE of Tennessee recalled that Kennedy was known for reaching out since his earliest days in Congress. Alexander came to Congress in 1967 as an aide to then-Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee and worked with Kennedy near the end of his first term.

“I’ve known and worked with him for 40 years. He’s results-oriented. He takes his positions, but he sits down and gets results,” Alexander said last May.

In recent years, examples of Kennedy’s bipartisan efforts included teaming up with Kansas Republican Nancy Kassebaum on healthcare in 1996, with President George W. Bush on education reform in 2001, and on unsuccessful attempts with Sen. John McCainJohn McCainFive fights for Trump’s first year Trump wall faces skepticism on border No Congress members along Mexico border support funding Trump's wall MORE (R-Ariz.) and other Republicans to pass immigration reform in the 110th and 111th Congresses.