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Tilting at Windmills

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August 26, 2009

FILLING THE KENNEDY VACANCY.... Replacing Sen. Edward Kennedy is, to a certain extent, impossible. Nevertheless, his death leaves a vacancy in the Senate.

Just last week, Kennedy encouraged lawmakers in Massachusetts to change state law and empower Gov. Deval Patrick to immediately name an interim senator until a special election could be held. With so much on the line, Kennedy, like everyone else, realized the dangers of leaving the Senate Democratic caucus with 59 votes for five months.

What's going to happen? The prospects are discouraging.

In the week before his death, reaction to his request on Beacon Hill ranged from muted to hostile. The state's Democrats found themselves in the awkward position of being asked to reverse their own 2004 initiative calling for special elections in such instances.

Until that year, Massachusetts law called for the governor to appoint a temporary replacement if a Senate seat became vacant. But when Senator John Kerry, a Democrat, was running for president in 2004, the Democratic-controlled state legislature wanted to deny the governor at the time -- Mitt Romney, a Republican -- the power to name a successor if Mr. Kerry won. The resulting law requires a special election within 145 to 160 days after the vacancy occurs. [...]

Even if Mr. Kennedy's death prompts a change of heart, the state legislature is not set to return until after Labor Day.

Politico reported this morning, "[I]t appears for now that Massachusetts will be without a second senator until a special election can be held early next year.... Under the 2004 law, the governor must set a special election to fill a vacant Senate seat between 145 and 160 days after the vacancy occurs - meaning, in this case, that a special election would be held in the second half of January 2010."

All of this is of the utmost importance, of course, because of a possible vote this year on health care reform, a fight Kennedy described as "the cause of my life." The prospects of overcoming Republican obstructionism were difficult enough, but with 59 votes in the Democratic caucus, defeating a GOP filibuster may prove impossible, which in turn makes the reconciliation option more appealing.

One alternative is that Republicans could allow the Senate to vote on health care reform, and let majority rule dictate the outcome (the way the Senate operated for generations). Another alternative is that just one or two of Kennedy's close, personal friends in the Senate's GOP caucus could honor his memory, put dignity above partisanship, vote for cloture, and not let Kennedy's death kill the cause of his life.

The chances of either of these alternatives occurring are remote.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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Comments

Yes honor and dignity just ain't what they used to be .

Posted by: FRP on August 26, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

This is BHO's opportunity to reach out in a spirit of bipartisanship and appoint a Republican to replace Kennedy. But we all know he is too small for such a gesture.

Posted by: Al on August 26, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Kennedy was already missed as an important voice in the healthcare debate.

Now that the Democrats no longer have 60 votes, they have perfect cover for bending the rules to get health care passed with only 50 votes.

Posted by: bakho on August 26, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Don't be so discouraged, Al. You righties will get another chance some day. :-)

Posted by: Bob M on August 26, 2009 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Yes , Gov. Patrick is lamentably too , too , small , for this solid gesture . Rewarding the stewardship of our values party , who bring their torture and hypocrisy philosophic commitment , The values of poverty , torture , adultery , bearing false witness , have made many , many , strides . Leaping and bounding strides , huzzah
Even
Oh you meant you wanted a Kenyan to appoint a Senator ? !

Posted by: FRP on August 26, 2009 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans cannot be expected to do anything honorable. Honor is defined by them as 'whatever consolidates our power.'

Posted by: terraformer on August 26, 2009 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

makes the reconciliation option more appealing

Republican obstructionist lemmingism from day one, combined with too many pastel blue and pink colored democrats made reconciliation more appealing long before Mr. Kennedy's death. The time is now ready for the nuclea.... I mean the reconciliation option to begin.

Posted by: hopeful on August 26, 2009 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

I fear that if a Republican or two (i.e., Snowe and Collins) would announce their intent to represent Kennedy, Nelson or Lincoln or Conrad would jump up and announce their intent to represent Snowe and Collins.

Posted by: TonyB on August 26, 2009 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Al demonstrates his fundamental ignorance of Massachusetts law, the Constitution, and decency all in one short paragraph. Well done.

Now, for a pleasant idea: Sen. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)

Posted by: Mike on August 26, 2009 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

In MA, this has pissed a lot of people off because the Democratic legislature is seen as re-writing the rules every time circumstances change just to benefit the Democrats. It was a big deal when they changed the law in 2004 and now they want to change it back.

Posted by: Terri on August 26, 2009 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Obama should offer the Republicans one last chance (in a big, prime-time way) to honor the memory of Senator Kennedy and support the health care reform that was his life's work, making clear that if they refuse, it will be passed by reconciliation. If the Blue Dogs block it, primary them into oblivion and pass it in 2010.

Posted by: dalloway on August 26, 2009 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

"One alternative is that Republicans could allow the Senate to vote on health care reform, and let majority rule dictate the outcome (the way the Senate operated for generations)."

Steve, don't the Dems and in particular Harry Reid have the right to set their own rules since they have the majority? Or maybe I misunderstand your point?

Posted by: PW on August 26, 2009 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

On a sad day like this, I really admire Steve going for humor with that line about Republicans putting dignity above partisanship.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on August 26, 2009 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

terri @ 8:59:

and gosh, we all know the republicans would NEVER EVER NEVER "rewrite the rules every time the circumstances change..."

Posted by: mellowjohn on August 26, 2009 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Kennedy was a force for good in the world. He will be missed. Godspeed.

There is very little honor in evidence in the GOP at the moment. So, I sincerely doubt that a single Republican in The US congress will vote for any hcr bill, with or without a public option. Simple as that.

They a. don't believe in helping anyone but themselves and their crony friends b. don't believe in anything constructive, their real goal being to ensure the failure of any Democratic administration. Even the sincere adherents of the increasingly fascist ideology at the core of the GOP are cynical in the ways they seek to defeat the public policy inititiatives desired by the majority of people in this country. They don't debate, they smear.

And hey, Al up there: Did you not read the article? President Obama cannot appoint anyone to replace Senator Kennedy. That's a problem for the administration. There must be a special election. It's STATE law. It's not Obama's choice to make.
But, without another Democrat on board we are short another vote, and do not have sufficient votes for cloture even if we do get to 50 without Kennedy. Unless the GOP agrees to go along with custom and not require a full 60 votes for cloture, which of course it will NOT.

And for all you idiots who insist on invoking the memory of that poor girl killed in Senator Kennedy's car, why don't you contemplate the thousands of people who die every year for lack of access to proper health care, not in the third world, but right here at home. Senator Kennedy made a grave error in judgment, but it was an error nontheless. What the hell is your excuse except for willful ignorance and selfishness?

Posted by: ajaye on August 26, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Once again, Al, you are an idiot.

Posted by: FreeThinkingRedneck on August 26, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

This is BHO's opportunity to reach out in a spirit of bipartisanship and appoint a Republican

Count the factual errors!


.

Posted by: spork_incident on August 26, 2009 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

This may be the wrong time to ask this, but why didn't he resign? I understand his desire to cast one last crucial vote, but considering his case was terminal and it had been months since he was well enough to be seen in public, why didn't he resign so a special election could occur sooner rather than too late? It would suck if not resigning, for whatever reason, when it became clear he'd never be back in the Senate, ends up contributing to the failure of his life's greatest cause.

Posted by: NHCt on August 26, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

You're right, NHCt.

It is the wrong time to ask this.

Posted by: jpeckjr on August 26, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Terri: "...In MA, this has pissed a lot of people off because the Democratic legislature is seen as re-writing the rules every time circumstances change just to benefit the Democrats. It was a big deal when they changed the law in 2004 and now they want to change it back..."

Sounds like they're just taking a few pages from the Republican playbook ; )

Posted by: Varecia on August 26, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Varecia,
Yes, yes, I know the Republicans would do it if they could, but that doesn't make it right. I'm not trying to be a Pollyanna here. Things like this are why, with the exception of Patrick (who's likely a one-termer), MA has had Republican governors over the last decade. People want a check on what they view as the majority's abuse of power.

Posted by: Terri on August 26, 2009 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

'...One alternative is that Republicans could allow the Senate to vote on health care reform, and let majority rule dictate the outcome (the way the Senate operated for generations)...'

And yet another alternative would be for OBAMA TO BE A MAN and call for RECONCILIATION

HOW HARD WOULD THAT BE ??
How had would it be to Pass HCR with a Public Option using RECONCILIATION IN HONOR of TED KENNEDY ???

Posted by: MSierra, SF on August 26, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Things like this are why, with the exception of Patrick (who's likely a one-termer), MA has had Republican governors over the last decade. People want a check on what they view as the majority's abuse of power.
Oh yah, indeed. Abuse of power is a big issue in MA.

That's why we elected a black guy from Chicago to be governor of the Commonwealth, after Weld, Cellucci, Swift and Romney.

Posted by: kenga on August 26, 2009 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

And if Republicans wanted to change state laws to get a Senator in place to pass one of their initiatives, or suggested that Barbara Boxer or Byron Dorgan should vote as their fallen GOP colleague would have voted, you would be castigating them for suggesting such a thing. Your hypocrisy is despicable.

Posted by: Freemas on August 26, 2009 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

That's why we elected a black guy from Chicago to be governor of the Commonwealth, after Weld, Cellucci, Swift and Romney.

What's your point?

Posted by: Terri on August 26, 2009 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Hey. Cut Al some slack.

He's probably (still) a George Dick W. Cheney Bush fan and laboring under the misapprehension that any occupant of the White House can do anything he wants any time he wants. Laws? Silly impediments.

One good reason to return to teaching civics in the schools. And it would directly benefit Al.

'Cause, it's gotta be rough posting on the internets tubes using crayons.

Posted by: Hart Williams on August 26, 2009 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

There is no replacement for a Giant fig ure like Sen Ted K , democarts need more doers as powerfull as him only people we can bring back in senate are vice president Al gore and no other than Bill Clinton both with there supremme hammer will bring libs back to life and a powerfull voice .

Posted by: anup on August 26, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

I recognize the Kennedy family contributions. I am also curious about why Kennedy didn't resign earlier. What would have happened to the replacement scenario? Still an election?

Posted by: Illinois grandma on August 26, 2009 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

If the ReThugs were in power in the Senate and Massachusetts, does anyone seriously think THEY would not change the rules? Heck, they'd probably change them to give the Gov. the power to appoint someone to fill out the deceased Senator's term.

Just another instance in which I wish MY party were not so "holy" and could do whatever it takes, just like those bullying iceholes on the other side of the aisle.

Posted by: Sarah Barracuda on August 26, 2009 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

"It was a big deal when they changed the law in 2004 and now they want to change it back. "

Is appointing an INTERIM replacement until the special election could be held changing it "back," or is that was Mass law provided before the 2004 change?

Posted by: Cal Gal on August 26, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

To "mellowjohn"... you might want to take a few minutes to purge your hate and look in the mirror! There are no greater smear mongers than the Daily KOS and the Huffington Post, not to mention your own DNC! Moreover, in the case of the majority Dems in the MA legislature, they created their own mess, with Ted's encouragement by the way, to change the law when it suited them... now they want to change it back again. Typical liberal politics... you want it both ways every time! Wake up!!

As far as Senator Kennedy's passing, although I did not agree with most of his political idology, I do think he tried his best to help many people... perhaps the Good Lord will forgive him for the good he tried to do! Sadly, however, any man that would let a young woman that he was having an affair with, simply die in car that he was driving and crashed into a river... and worse yet, try to get someone else to take the fall for him... is simply a disgrace! If it were anyone other than a Kennedy in MA, they would have been in jail for leaving the scene of an accident, not to mention a possible manslaughter charge. Say what you want Mr. Mellowjohn, this was not just a simple error in judgement... it was despicable, and those of us old enough to remember what happened, have no respect for the man because of it. I do praise him for all the good he did and tried to do, but I simply cannot forget Mary Jo... and I bet her family cannot either. Not for me to judge or forgive... he is now facing the One that has that power... I hope it turns out well for his soul and he can rest in peace with his mother and father, and three brothers.

Posted by: Don on August 26, 2009 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

A correction to my last post! I mentioned "mellowjohn" but it was "ajaye" that I was referring to in my post. Please accept my apologies "mellowjohn!" I thought the poster's name was on top... but it actually on the bottom.

Posted by: Don on August 26, 2009 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

I would never wish for a state to be without it's full complement of senators, but for the health care reform legislation vote it seems somehow appropriate that that seat, his seat should remain empty. Whomever should be in that seat when the legislation is voted on would be an interloper.

Like a riderless horse his seat should remain empty for that vote.

Posted by: MarkH on August 26, 2009 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

In reading many of these posts on this blog, it seems that most are from Massachusetts and many, if not all, are in favor of a government run healthcare system that is currently being considered by the House and Senate. Since most of you are from MA, it is quite obvious that the majority are liberal so this is a wonderful audience for my comment forthwith! Lets leave the party stuff on the side for a moment lets just look at ideology and the reality of socialized healthcare!

It is so easy to be a Liberal! I say that, not as a negative but in many ways as a complement because most liberals (and I will leave the far left hate mongers on the sidelines along with the far right hate mongers as well theres no difference in these people!!) seem to want the best for other people and thats noble and wonderful. If you were to ask a liberal thinking person, Do you want healthcare for everyone? they would immediately reply with an absolute Yes!! Now I, on the other hand being conservative, would say, Yes I do, but.! Heres the but!! Whos going to pay for it??!! Is it my responsibility to pay for someone elses healthcare? Sure, Im concerned for others, but I believe in self-reliance and freedom to choose what I want to do. Sure, I also would like to see everyone in their own home everyone with a new efficient car no one homeless no one ever sick no one worried about paying their bills no American ever having to die in a war (and I have a son in the military by the way)! So, as a liberal it all sounds great when the government comes up with plan to give away $8000 for a new home $4500 for a new car Free healthcare! OK lets not stop there lets have the government give everyone $500 for a new TV, after all dont we want everyone to be happy and have a new TV? How about $1000 for a new refrigerator, after all dont we want everyone to have a new efficient refrigerator to keep their food cold? How about another $1000 for a new washer & dryer, after all dont we want everyone to be able to wash their clothes? You see where Im going with this? Most liberals all agreed that the Cash for Clunkers was a fabulous idea and the $8000 for first-time home buyers, wow what a nice thing to do for these young people! Just more of this hand-wringing, touchy feely stuff that makes you feel good because youre helping someone! You see how easy it is to be a liberal? Nothing bad here they just want nice things for other people, how wonderful!! Ah, but like everything else in life theres a catch most liberals dont even think about the consequences because that would cause them to put the breaks on feeling good about helping people! Now I dont know about you, but when my wife and I were married 34 years ago, the first thing we did was start a savings plan so we could get our own house we didnt get any money from the government, and frankly I didnt want any then and dont want any now!! Heres a news flash the government DOES NOT have free money to give away, they have to get it from somewhere and that somewhere is you and me!! So like Cash for Clunkers and the First-Time Home Buyers program liberals now want a trillion dollar healthcare plan, but it has to be paid by someone! Oh boy, here it comes the common liberal theme Tax the rich, after all, why should we pay take it from them!! Heres another News Flash theres not enough Rich people to pay for all of this and moreover, if you take more money from the rich that will be just less jobs! Why? Because it is the people with money that are the ones willing to take a risk and start businesses that ultimately create jobs for you an me! Every see someone making $30,000 a year in todays economy create a job? Jobs dont magically appear and heres another News Flash contrary to popular belief and political rhetoric from both parties, the government DOES NOT create jobs, that is except government jobs but you and I have to pay for them, not the government. Nothing is Free in life and FREE HEALTHCARE is not a fundamental right! Note, I said Free Healthcare! And what does Affordable healthcare mean, really? This is a common phrase that politicians use but what does it really mean. Whats affordable for me, might not be affordable by you and the government cant make it perfect for everyone! Now I believe that we need healthcare reform, but I feel that Congress and that means the Dems and Rep need to work together need to take the system we have now and fix it! Put rules, policies and government oversight in place to make the worlds best system even better tort reform, competition across state lines to name a few. Dont tell me that we cant do that! We dont need the government providing and running healthcare and they damn sure dont have the right to tell me what to buy and from whom! You see, I want the same thing that you do but via a different method. Does that make me the evil person that many of these bloggers called conservatives? How sad that we have to resort to horrendous name calling!

I will close with three glaring examples that should hit home to most of you from MA. Three of the most liberal states in the country are MA, CA and NJ!! Massachusetts is nicknamed; Taxachusetts and I know all of you from Mass know this quite well. California, a state that has an economy larger than most third world nations is nearly bankrupt!! And a state where I was born and raised but left 30 years ago has the highest property taxes in the country, New Jersey!! Have you ever asked yourself why? News flash again someone has to pay for all of these liberal socialized entitlement programs, so that means YOU! As much as we all want the best for everyone, the reality is Socialism does not work never has, never will!! We need to bring back the things that made this the greatest nation in the world self reliance, self determination and fiscal responsibility both in government and as individuals! A nanny state with endless entitlements will be the destruction of our great republic that you can count on!

Posted by: Don on August 26, 2009 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, Don, did you say something?

Posted by: Terri on August 26, 2009 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

I used to be on the lookout for essential information on this subject. The information was necessary as I am about to launch my own portal. Thanks for offering a lacking link in my business. Anyway, in my language, there should not a lot good supply like this.

Posted by: so dep on January 27, 2011 at 7:24 AM | PERMALINK
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