When Sen. Ted Kennedy died last week at the age of 77, the Massachusetts Democrat left behind a career as one of the most effective leaders in Congress. During his 46 years as a senator, the third longest of any senator in history, he helped craft legislation that profoundly reformed everything from the country's racial makeup to the federal government's role in education. That's not to say that he, or even Democrats, should be given all the credit, as much of his legislation was undertaken with Republicans in power. Below are some of his most important legislative accomplishments:
1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. The then freshman served as the floor manager for the bill, which overturned the immigration quota system that had favored Europeans. Immigrants now were prioritized based not on race but on skills and family ties. One result: an enormous shift in the ethnic makeup of America by the end of the 20th century.
1968 Fair Housing Act. Kennedy helped lead the fight for the third piece of major civil rights legislation in the 1960s, which outlawed discrimination in housing. It made it illegal to rent or sell a home (or refuse to do so) based on a person's race or ethnicity.
1968 Bilingual Education Act. Kennedy served as a key champion for the bill, which mandated that schools provide bilingual education programs.
1972 Title IX. This new law prohibited women from being discriminated against in schools, whether in the classroom or on the athletic field. One of the act's most important supporters, Kennedy also fought later attempts to water it down.
1972 Meals on Wheels Act and the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program. Kennedy's backing of these two bills helps ensure that senior citizens unable to leave their homes get nutritious meals and that low-income women and their children have access to food and nutrition and health services.
1975 Individual With Disabilities Education Act. Kennedy was a cosponsor of this law, mandating that all children with a disability have access to free public education that meets their needs.
1990 Americans With Disabilities Act. Under the act, introduced by Kennedy, no one can discriminate against a job applicant or employee for having a disability.
1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The bill, co-sponsored by Kennedy, protects the health insurance of Americans who change or lose their jobs.
1997 State Children's Health Insurance Program. Kennedy's bill provides insurance for children whose family incomes are both too high to qualify for Medicaid and too low to afford private coverage. Some called it the most far-reaching piece of healthcare legislation in a generation.
2001 No Child Left Behind Act. Kennedy supported President George W. Bush's bill, which enacted requirements and benchmarks for every public school in America to qualify for federal funding. But he later accused the White House of going back on its promise to adequately fund the act, an essential ingredient for success.
2003 Expansion of Medicare. The final bill was far more industry friendly than Kennedy's original legislation, leading him to say that his bill was "hijacked" by the GOP. Still, it did expand Medicare to include prescription drug benefits, as he wanted, making it the largest expansion of the program in its history.
- See photos of Ted Kennedy throughout his life.