Fourth Term 1977–1982

“For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
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Peace for Northern Ireland
Four Irish-American elected officials – Senator Kennedy, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill (D-MA), Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), and Governor Hugh Carey (D-NY) – joined together to release a statement denouncing violence in Northern Ireland and calling for Americans to stop funding the Irish Republican Army (IRA). At a time when the country’s Irish-Americans were unwilling to criticize the IRA, the move was considered a bold step. Known from that point on as the Four Horsemen, the four statesmen joined together on various occasions throughout their careers to advocate strong support for peace in Northern Ireland.


Airline and Trucking Deregulation
Senator Kennedy led efforts to deregulate the airline industry. At a time when traveling by air was a luxury, deregulation increased competition, dropping the cost of ticket prices and opening up the possibility air travel to average Americans. His support of deregulation continued with the trucking industry in the Motor Carrier Act of 1980,which President Carter lauded as having a “powerful anti-inflationary effect, reducing consumer costs by as much as $8 billion each year.”


The Refugee Act of 1980
Throughout his career, Senator Kennedy was committed to helping refugees -- people uprooted due to plight or attempting to flee oppression from countries in Southeast Asia, Africa, Central America and the former Soviet Union. Among numerous bills he authored, the Refugee Act of 1980 created a legal standard for determining who was a refugee. The Act established a comprehensive U.S. policy to provide humanitarian assistance, admission, and resettlement to refugees around the world.


Fighting Budget Cutbacks
Beginning in 1981, Senator Kennedy led congressional efforts to limit substantial proposed budgetary cuts to health care, education, and other programs that he felt would roll back the civil rights movement’s achievements and harm the nation’s progress.


Extending the Voting Rights Act
Working with Senators Bob Dole (R-KS) and Charles Mathias (R-MD), Senator Kennedy was the chief sponsor of the Voting Rights Act, extending its duration for another 25 years. This legislation made it easier to identify and address discriminatory election laws.
Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)
Throughout the 1970s, Senator Kennedy worked tirelessly to require the National Science Foundation invest in applied research being conducted by qualified small businesses. This effort to support new business innovation and scientific advancement became the basis for passage of the 1982 law instituting the SBIR program across all government agencies involved in research. The program has resulted in 70,000 issued patents, close to 700 public companies, and venture capital investments of approximately 41 billion dollars.