What’s the best way to pay tribute to a Lion of the Senate? For some, it seems to be to rubber-stamp his top legislative priority when it seems his career in public office is nearing its end:

Senators on both sides of the aisle as well as operatives on K Street were candid that [Ted] Kennedy’s half-century push for universal health care could receive a boost because of his brain cancer diagnosis and the accompanying understanding that his days in the Senate could be limited. Capitol Hill veterans believe comprehensive health care legislation — with Kennedy at the wheel — is in its best position yet to advance.

“Having him there gives this a sense of urgency. And, they appreciate what an effort he’s making personally — with his own health struggles — to be there, and that has value to it,” said Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Kennedy’s closest Senate ally…

“The entire Democratic caucus and even some in the Republican caucus know it’s the final thing for Kennedy, and they want to get it done and put his imprimatur on it,” said a former Senate Democratic aide who now works downtown. “They’ll probably put his name on it…”

But implementing a major health care overhaul could be the pinnacle of a career that, in terms of passing legislation, could prove to be among the most productive and influential in the chamber’s history. Considering Kennedy’s illness, some in Washington believe Kennedy recognizes this, and would not have rushed back to Capitol Hill had Obama not won the presidential election.

Ask any Washington Democrat about the Iraq war, and he or she will tell you it was a mistake precipitated by willful ignorance of the facts, combined with a grudge against Saddam Hussein and the emotionalism of the Bush administration. Yet it seems these same Democrats are eager to bring the efficiency of the DMV into the operating theater, all because it would make a nice parting gift for Senator Kennedy.

Let’s hope some sensible Democrats see the irony, and consider this idea on its merits rather than rush into an expensive mistake.