Third Term 1971–1976

“…we should use our powers not to create conditions of oppression that lead to violence, but conditions of freedom that lead to peace.”
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National Cancer Act of 1971
As chairman of the Senate Health Subcommittee, Senator Kennedy led the congressional campaign to battle cancer. He worked with Senator Jacob Javits (R-NY) and the health advocate and philanthropist Mary Lasker, to gain Republican President Nixon’s support for the National Cancer Act. This federal law established a national goal "to conquer cancer at the earliest possible date" and dramatically increased national funding for cancer research. It was one of Senator Kennedy’s early landmark achievements in healthcare legislation.


Watergate Investigation
Senator Kennedy’s staff on the Administrative Practices and Procedures Judiciary Subcommittee launched the first investigation into the Watergate scandal when facts around the break-in and cover-up were still not well known. Some credit Senator Kennedy’s initial investigation with exposing the scandal and launching the wider congressional inquiry, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.
The Fight Against Anti-Busing Amendments
After federal courts ruled that busing could be used to integrate public schools, Senator Kennedy felt it was important to stand by the court’s ruling. He fought a series of anti-busing amendments in 1972, 1974, and 1975 aimed at limiting the ability of the courts and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) to order busing. In his home state of Massachusetts, he met with busing opponents despite great personal risk. Amidst a heated national debate, he successfully fought some of the stronger anti-busing amendments, but was unable to stop compromise legislation in 1974 and 1975 that limited the courts’ ability to force busing.


Travels to the Soviet Union and Europe
Senator Kennedy traveled to the USSR, Yugoslavia, Romania, and West Germany and worked for the release of Jewish dissidents and refugees from behind the Iron Curtain trying to obtain exit visas. He met with German Chancellor Willy Brandt and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, as well as a group of Soviet dissidents in the apartment of Alexander Lerner, a leader of Moscow’s scientific elite. The trip laid the groundwork for Senator Kennedy’s later negotiations for the release of many Soviet dissidents, such as Nobel Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.


Education for All Handicapped Children Act
Senator Kennedy co-sponsored the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). The law created education rights for children with special needs, expanding federal education aid for children with disabilities.