While not unexpected, the death of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy inspired many of his colleagues and friends to reflect on what they thought about him and his accomplishments, and how his passing might affect the federal health care debate.

While not unexpected, the death of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy inspired many of his colleagues and friends to reflect on what they thought about him and his accomplishments, and how his passing might affect the federal health care debate.

Here's what some of them had to say on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama:

"Since Teddy's diagnosis last year, we've seen the courage with which he battled his illness. And while these months have no doubt been difficult for him, they've also let him hear from people in every corner of our nation and from around the world just how much he meant to all of us. His fight has given us the opportunity we were denied when his brothers John and Robert were taken from us: the blessing of time to say thank you – and goodbye.

"The outpouring of love, gratitude, and fond memories to which we've all borne witness is a testament to the way this singular figure in American history touched so many lives. His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives – in seniors who know new dignity, in families that know new opportunity, in children who know education's promise, and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just – including myself."

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former GOP congressman:

"I've always thought of him as one of the real bipartisan giants of the Congress and certainly of the Senate. He and I had a very cordial, warm relationship."

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin:

"I would say that in more than 45 years, Ted Kennedy has had more impact on the actions and passions of our time than any other senator, maybe any other elected official. He has devoted his life to the Senate, public service. He has been an active participant in all of the major debates. There's hardly an issue or a law that's been passed that he hasn't had some imprint on.

"Beyond his public life, he was a great person, a great spirit. People talk about that great Kennedy humor – his laugh that could draw a crowd, his smile that lit up a room and that great Kennedy heart that had been broken so many times. He'd be the first to put his arm around your shoulder when you were going through a tough time personally."

"We know that it's going to be a struggle to pass health care. We need help to do it, and we're going to have to do our best – hope we can use the spirit of Ted Kennedy to bring us across the finish line."

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris:

"Today, I mourn the loss of my colleague Senator Edward Kennedy. Senator Kennedy's devotion to our country and his lifetime legacy of fighting for causes such as civil rights, education, and health care are unparalleled. His life and legislative accomplishments will carry on through those he knew, inspired, and fought for. The United States Senate and our entire nation will miss him dearly."

U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Rock Island:

Hare, a delegate for Kennedy during his 1980 presidential campaign, called him "one of the best and longest-serving United States senators."

The liberal Kennedy's longtime friendship with U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a conservative Republican, "just tells you that not only could he reach across party lines, but people respected him for who he was," Hare said.

"I will miss him a lot, and I think the country will miss him a lot," he added. "I think now the best thing we can do to honor his memory is to give people quality health care, and I think that we'll do that."

U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria:

"With the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy, our country has lost a tremendous statesman. His decades of service in the Senate helped produce bipartisan accomplishments that have an impact on our lives each day. I offer my deepest condolences to his wife Vicki and the entire Kennedy family."

Gov. Pat Quinn:

"Senator Ted Kennedy was a true American patriot. He fought for civil rights, decent health care and dignity for all people. He will be deeply missed throughout our state and nation. Senator Kennedy was an optimist, believing that our country's finest chapters are still to be written. May his work remind us of the importance of dedicating ourselves to serving our country."

Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, a Democratic candidate for governor:

"During a lifetime spent in the public eye, Senator Kennedy never hesitated to carry the torch for society's marginalized – no matter their age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. We were all fortunate to share this brief walk of life with the Lion of the Senate. On this sad day, we should all be mindful that his work remains, his cause endures, his hope pushes us forward, and it now falls to us to see his dream fulfilled."

Former U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon:

"I loved the guy. He was really a good person. I genuinely enjoyed his company," said Dixon, who left the Senate in 1992 and served with Kennedy on the Armed Services Committee.

Dixon said Kennedy was farther to the left on the political spectrum than he was, but they nonetheless worked well together. "He was a guy you could do a deal with. You could work out a compromise with him."

Gene Callahan, former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon and ex-lobbyist for Major League Baseball:

"His word was good. In all my dealings with him, even when we disagreed on an issue, his word stood out as being completely solid," said Callahan, of Springfield.

Callahan recalled that his daughter, Cheri Bustos, wrote to Kennedy after the death of John Kennedy Jr. Durbin hand-delivered the correspondence, and Kennedy responded with a "very kind note," Callahan said.

Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com.