27 August 2009

Sen. Kennedy succession

There's a lot of discussion everywhere in the media of Sen. Kennedy's "dying wish" that Massachusetts change the "Kerry Succession" law (unused, since Kerry failed to win), and allow Gov. Patrick to appoint an interim successor.

Personally, I'm not insensitive to the argument that this sets bad precedent; that it's too highly politicized, etc. I think the original law was probably ill advised. Better to have provided that the governor could appoint whoever he liked, but that the interim Senator would be barred from running for the seat, and a special election would have to be held within 60 days, or something like that. If that were the law, there would be no problem.

Anyway, I think the politics of the moment trump procedural and state constitutional integrity arguments in this particular case. Health Care reform could be the essential legacy of Sen. Kennedy, if it can be made to happen, and the galvanizing effect of not wanting to be seen as destroying that legacy could make the difference. So, in this case, I am hoping the Massachusetts Legislature accedes to the late senator's wishes and gives Gov. Patrick the ability to appoint an interim successor who can provide a YES vote for real health care, for which Sen. Kennedy almost literally fought his entire career.

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