PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – Rep. Patrick Kennedy said Friday that his father, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, has been “very frustrated” to be absent from Washington during the debate over health care reform.

Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat, told The Associated Press that his father, who has made health care a core issue during his 47 years in the Senate, has a unique ability to read his colleagues and negotiate compromises.

“Every other senator in that Senate knows that there have been very few senators like Ted Kennedy over the years that can bring both sides together and hammer out a deal that can then go to the president,” said the younger Kennedy, who called his father a “master legislator” and statesman.

The 77-year-old Massachusetts senator was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in May 2008. He underwent a risky, aggressive surgery shortly after his diagnosis, but since then has been convalescing at his homes in Washington and Hyannis Port, as well as a rental property in Florida.

Earlier this week, Kennedy sent a letter to Massachusetts leaders asking that they change state law to allow someone to be quickly appointed to his seat in Congress “should a vacancy occur,” though aides said there has been no material change to his condition.

Patrick Kennedy did not discuss his father’s health other than to say, “I love being with him and all the time that I’ve been given to be with him. These last several months to a year have just been a blessing to me and my family.”

But he said it’s been “very frustrating” for his father to miss a debate that he’s helped lead for many years and to watch Democrats and Republicans struggle for compromise. Still, the senator has followed the debate from afar, prodding his colleagues to pass reforms in a recent essay in Newsweek magazine.

“My dad has the principle of ensuring the best possible deal for the American people, and he also has the practicality to know what can be accomplished in a given political environment,” Patrick Kennedy said. “He is the master legislator.”

Patrick Kennedy plans a health care forum on Sept. 3.


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