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Senate Madness - Round Two: Modern Era

1. Ted Kennedy vs. 8. Robert Byrd

1. Ted Kennedy, D - Massachusetts, 1932-2009
Regarded as the last lion to serve in the Senate, Ted Kennedy worked across the aisle to achieve major legislative accomplishments -- on health care, education, civil rights, and raising the minimum wage. He also was instrumental in Barack Obama’s presidential quest, delivering him key support in the middle of the heated 2008 campaign between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.

8. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., 1917-2010
Robert Byrd grew up poor in the Appalachian coalfields of West Virginia to become the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate (51 years, from 1959-2010). A defender of the Senate and legislative branch, Byrd was majority leader, minority leader, president pro tempore, and Appropriations chairman, helping to dole out federal dollars to West Virginia. In his early years, he belonged to the Ku Klux Klan and filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But later in his career, he was an ardent supporter of President Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American president. Byrd died in office at the age of 92.

5. Hubert Humphrey vs. 13. Ed Brooke

5. Hubert Humphrey, D- Minn., 1911-78: A strong debater, parliamentarian, and liberal, the "Happy Warrior” Humphrey merged Minnesota's Democratic and Farmer-Labor parties, and he fought for civil rights, farmers, and small businesses.  His biggest legislative achievements were helping get through the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As vice president to LBJ, he helped to pass the Voting Rights Act and Medicare. 

13. Ed Brooke, R-Mass., 1919-current: Brooke was the first and longest-serving (1967-1979) African American elected to the Senate by popular vote. Elected just three years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, Brooke was an advocate for civil rights, racial equality in the South, affordable housing, increasing the minimum wage, commuter rail and mass transit. The Washington, D.C., native and Howard University grad is a World War II vet and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004, as well as the Congressional Gold Medal in 2008. There have been just eight black senators in U.S. history and just two before Brooke – 86 years earlier.

3. Jesse Helms vs. 11. Joe Biden

3. Jesse Helms, R- N.C., 1921-2003: Helms was the combative conservative senator who served in the Senate for 30 years. Legislatively, he was best known for sponsoring measures tightening trade with Cuba and for preventing U.S. funds for being sent to international family planning organizations that provide abortions. “I didn’t come to Washington to be a ‘yes man’ for any president, Democrat or Republican,” Helms said, per the New York Times. “I didn’t come to Washington to get along and win any popularity contests.”

11. Joe Biden, D-Del., 1942-present: Biden is currently vice president, but before that, he was a well-known fixture in the U.S. Senate for 36 years. First elected at the age of 29, Biden authored the 1994 crime bill, as well as the Violence Against Women Act (which Congress just reauthorized). Biden, who ran for president twice unsuccessfully, also served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Foreign Relations Committee.

2. Daniel Patrick Moynihan vs. 10. Bob Dole

2. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (Modern), D-New York, 1927-2003: He was known for his intellect (he wrote 19 books), his forward thinking (he foresaw the Soviet decline), connections to history, and his ideas to come up with solutions to big problems -- from auto safety to cities to racism. He could work across the aisle and had a hand in the 1980s Social Security fix as well as working with Bob Dole on a health-insurance fix (not what the White House wanted) in the 1990s that never came to fruition. He also was one of the only Democrats to speak out against late-term abortion, calling it "infanticide." The New York Times called him an “often brilliant synthesizer whose works compelled furious debate and further research.”

10. Bob Dole (Modern), R-Kansas, 1923-current: The conservative Kansan war veteran is the self-proclaimed “Master of Political Compromise.” Dole served 27 years in the Senate and was longest-serving top Republican in the chamber (from 1985 until 1995 when he ran for president). The Medal of Freedom honoree believed in bipartisanship, governance, civility, and keeping his word. He also fought for social welfare items like food stamps (he lived through the Depression) and benefits for the disabled (he lost full use of his arm in WWII; he was also pivotal in the creation of the WWII Memorial), as well as civil rights.  things the GOP of today sees as anathema. Many of those are things that are anathemas to today’s GOP (see: the fact that his presence – in a wheelchair -- wasn’t enough to get the disabilities treaty passed.)