Sen. Edward Kennedy was back at work in the Senate on Tuesday for the first time since surgery earlier this month to clear a partially blocked artery in his neck.

"I'm feeling fine," the Massachusetts Democrat said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I think it's just about getting the energy level back ... The strength has been coming back daily."

Kennedy, 75, had been resting at the family's Hyannis Port, Mass., compound since his Oct. 12 surgery in Boston. The blockage in Kennedy's left carotid artery, which supplies blood to the face and brain, was discovered Oct. 4 after a routine physical examination and MRI on his back.

Kennedy was flooded with get-well greetings from Democrats and Republicans alike, though "there was a kind of continuing sense from some of the Republicans that I maybe ought to stay in Massachusetts a bit longer," he joked.

Among those making a call was President Bush.

"He was calling to wish me well, but we talked a little shop as well," Kennedy said.

The senator said he used the chat to lobby him about the No Child Left Behind law. Kennedy played a key role crafting the five-year-old education law, which faces a tough renewal fight in Congress.

One of Kennedy's doctors said after the surgery that the senator's overall health was excellent. Kennedy is on blood-pressure and cholesterol medication.

Kennedy has been bothered by an aching back since a 1964 plane crash, which killed a pilot and one of Kennedy's aides.

Then-Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., who was traveling with Kennedy, pulled him from the wreckage but Kennedy suffered a back injury, punctured lung, broken ribs and internal bleeding. Because of persistent pain, the senator often leans on a wall or sits on a stool when he otherwise would be expected to stand for an extended period.

Kennedy is the lone surviving son in his storied political family. His eldest brother, Joseph, was killed in a World War II airplane crash; President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and Robert was assassinated in 1968, when he was running for president.