Monday, August 24, 2009

The Surprise Change of Heart By The "Lion of the Senate"

Did you catch the news yesterday that Senator Ted Kennedy, who is severely ill with brain cancer, has written a letter to Deval Patrick, the current governor of Massachusetts, urging that state law be revised to allow the governor himself to appoint the senator's successor directly should his seat become vacant?

Current state law provides that any vacant senate seat be filled after a state-wide special election. This could take months to arrange and, if Senator Kennedy were to pass away in the near future, this rule may mean that his senate seat could be vacant during any vote on health care reform, a single vote that could prove crucial. Since the current governor of Massachusetts is a Democrat, he could presumably be relied upon to appoint a like-minded replacement.

All of the above has been widely publicized in the news media in recent days. As has the fact that the abscence of Senator Kennedy (the so-called "Lion of the Senate") from Washington, D.C. in recent months due to illness is widely believed to have contributed to the inability of the Senate to reach a consensus to date on health care reform legislation.
But considerably less ink has been spilled in the press to add the further context that it was Senator Kennedy himself who spearheaded the change in 2004 (just 5 years ago) to have any vacant senate seats from Massachusetts filled by popular vote rather than by a vote of the governor, as had previously been state law. It's true. (But "way back" in 2004, fellow Senator John Kerry looked like he might win the White House, and at the time the governor of Masachusetts was a Republican, Mitt Romney.)

The role of "Dorothy" will tonight be played by Mary Jo Kopechne....

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