Kennedy Asks MA For Interim Replacement Law

Being reported by the Boston Globe. Good for Sen. Kennedy to be thinking about this (PDF). We all of course hope for his recovery, and the report is clear in that Sen. Kennedy is not planning to resign nor is he at imminent risk.

This issue has been discussed a lot here, in hushed tones for the most part. But the 2004 law that stripped the Massachusetts governor of the power of appointment was clearly flawed. A special election, as called for by the law, is of course good, but an interim appointment by the Governor must be allowed. Massachusetts should not stand unrepresented until a special election.

Kudos to Sen. Kennedy for again proving he is a man who puts the people first.

Speaking for me only

< WSJ Reports Dem May Split Health Care Bill | The Madman Theory Of Political Bargaining: Part 3 >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    well, (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by bocajeff on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:24:37 AM EST
    you're leaving out the fun part of why the law was there in the first place. It was put in by Dems to make sure a Republican governor (Romney) couldn't appoint a replacement for Kerrey if he had won the 2004 presidential election. Now, it's coming back to nip them. Gotta love politics sometimes.

    People seem to forget (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:43:08 AM EST
    that those Dems in the legislature are democratically elected as well.  And they were looking out for their constituants who have shown repeatedly that they are not interested in republican senators.  Allowing Romney to select a replacement (without an election soon thereafter) would've been ubsurd.

    They are not proposing to eliminate the special election this time, just have an interim replacement - which they should've done the first time as well.


    except (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by bocajeff on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:56:32 AM EST
    that's one of the responsibilities of a governor - whom the people freely elected! We want this person to have this responsibility we just don't want him/her to use it?

    well in a way, yes (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:09:50 AM EST
    look, the legislature was able to override just about any veto by the governer.  This is because almost the entire legislature is dem - by design/vote.  So yes, in a sense, we never wanted Romney (or any other republican governer) to have too much power.

    Just look at what everyone refers to as "Romneycare".  He tried to veto eight different sections of that, all of which where over-ridden.  True "Romneycare" would not have looked anything like what we currently have.  The legislature is like that on purpose.


    Should the law be changed (none / 0) (#72)
    by Cards In 4 on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 05:20:49 PM EST
    again if a Republican becomes governor?  If a governor is elected with the power of appointment can't you say the voters elected him knowing he had this power?

    I think if the parties were reversed people would be pointing out how wrong it was.  We should at least be honest about what a naked political play this is.


    I was very surprised to (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by brodie on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:00:23 AM EST
    read the other day (in the thread here where so many seemed to be clamoring for Ted to step aside so people of his state would have a voice on HCR votes) that MA puts the special election for a replacement at something like 5 months from the time of resignation.  

    That's ridiculously too long; 60-90 days tops would be more reasonable.

    And had Kennedy announced he was stepping down, the voters of his state still wouldn't have had their full representation on HCR, which is almost certainly going to be decided before the end of this calendar year.  In fact, they would have been worse off since Kennedy and staff are at least getting some work done by phone on the HCR process.


    It's "within 5 months" (none / 0) (#67)
    by itscookin on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 01:53:07 PM EST
    The special election can happen as soon as the state can set it up. It just can't take longer than 5 months.

    It would be best (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Cream City on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:30:30 AM EST
    of course, to have a federal law for the same process in all states -- and one that is based on the principle that all states will have complete representation at all times, so less subject to the whims of the political moment when the majority in a state legislature don't like their governor.  

    And let it keep Congress, too, from preventing full representation -- as it has done in past by denying, repeatedly, the will of the people in whom they send to fill a seat (see: First Socialist in Congress, Victor Berger, when the House repeatedly  and for years denied Milwaukee its representation.)

    well, (none / 0) (#5)
    by bocajeff on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:39:33 AM EST
    you don't need a federal law for this. States (by way of voters) are free to do these things. The people of Mass obviously didn't think much of the change when it happened. they are getting what they probably wanted at the time.

    why do you say this: (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:45:01 AM EST
    "The people of Mass obviously didn't think much of the change when it happened"


    Trust me, we did not want a Republican senator if that is what you are suggesting.  And at the time, if Kerry was elected president, there would've been a transition period and lame duck session where we could've held a special election without it disrupting the senate for too long.


    again (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by bocajeff on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:59:29 AM EST
    you can't have the people elect a republican governor to a job with certain responsibilities and then have a state legislature put in a law that takes away that responsibility just because another elected person decides to leave his job for a better one. Everyone has responsibility here.

    the state legislature (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:16:24 AM EST
    is within their right to change the law.  They absolutely had a responsibility.  That responsibility was to represent the people of MA who have not shown any inclination to send a republican to the senate.

    Or (5.00 / 2) (#36)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:19:08 AM EST
    the Democrats are so firmly entrenched that it's hard to beat them.  Does your state have term limits?  If not, it would be interesting to see what term limits would do.

    Romney won at one time.  That might say that people were perturbed with Democrats.

    Ensuring that the other side has no encroachment into power really isn't good for ensuring good government, IMHO.  You need the other side to keep the one side honest.

    All you have to ask, is what if Republicans pulled the same kind of thing.  Would you think it was right?


    Romney won (5.00 / 3) (#42)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:52:32 AM EST
    by outright lying about his core beliefs and then spent the next 4 years campaigning nationwide and trashing the very people who elected him in the first place.

    Well, that description (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by Cream City on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:14:52 PM EST
    sure seems to fit a lot of pols, and at the national level lately, too.  (And some just haven't had four years yet.)

    lots of pols lie (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:17:06 PM EST
    all the time.  Most of them don't travel around the country trashing their constituents.  That didn't sit too well back home.

    This wasn't a fluke (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:13:52 PM EST
    MA had an overwhelmingly Dem legislature and a Republican gov. for a very long time.  Romney was not the first, he was just so terrible that he was the last.

    This is not an accident.  It was by design.  A republican gov. acts as a check on the legislature.  But the legislature is so overwhelmingly Dem that we get relatively progressive laws enacted anyway  The gov. in MA does not have much power, the legislature does.  That's true even with Patrick there.

    Republicans pull what?  Allowing an interim  (short term) appointee?  Or requiring a special election?  I would not have a problem with either.  This law wasn't about Romney per se, the govs before him were republican too.  It just hadn't come up because Kerry hadn't run for president before that.


    No, and I didn't think (none / 0) (#69)
    by itscookin on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 02:06:35 PM EST
    it was right at the time.  We elected Romney governor, and as many are fond of saying, "Elections have consequences."

    You most certainly can (none / 0) (#54)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:35:52 PM EST
    What a silly statement.

    According to reports at the time (none / 0) (#20)
    by jbindc on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:00:56 AM EST
    The special election wouldn't be held until 145-160 days after Kerry was elected, which would have been sometime in late March or early April on 2005.

    Well, Jeff (none / 0) (#24)
    by Cream City on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:03:29 AM EST
    your solution is exactly the problem that my solution would fix.  Sigh.

    well, (none / 0) (#48)
    by bocajeff on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:17:20 PM EST
    there are problems with federalism and stuff like that. This is a state issue and the state took it upon themselves to make sure a republican government couldn't appoint a senator. I don't have a problem with this - I'm just saying that they are the mechanism in which this problem could have been fixed but was neglected. And that Sen. Kennedy could have taken care of at the time of his tragic diagnosis...

    He could have? (5.00 / 1) (#55)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:40:10 PM EST
    Teddy doesn't write the laws in Mass.  And if you're suggesting he should have resigned the moment he found out he had a brain tumor, that's another totally absurd idea.  If there'd been a referendum, the people of Mass. would have overwhelmingly voted for him to stick it out as long as he could.

    You are quite obviously clueless about the state, which is fine, but it's pretty idiotic to keep proclaiming what its politicians should and shouldn't do when you have no understanding of the political dynamics there.


    Unfortunately (none / 0) (#6)
    by Steve M on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:40:59 AM EST
    there are probably constitutional limits on the extent to which the federal government can dictate a state process like electing a Senator.

    Thus the need (none / 0) (#25)
    by Cream City on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:04:42 AM EST
    for a change at the federal level -- Consttutional or otherwise, based on what we have seen this year alone, much less what we have seen for a century.

    All you have (none / 0) (#31)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:09:51 AM EST
    to ask yourself about the "interim law" the Democrats enacted is, "would you feel the same way if a Republican had done it?"

    The answer is clearly no.

    The Dem legislature in MA makes my skin crawl.


    enacted? (5.00 / 2) (#33)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:14:09 AM EST
    no one has enacted anything yet.  If they allowed Romney to produce an interim replacement, who would be subject to a special election, I think that would be fine.

    They may make your skin crawl, but they are elected to represent the interests of the people of MA, and that's what they did.


    That's OK (5.00 / 1) (#56)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:42:36 PM EST
    I'm quite confident you would make their skin crawl, too.

    And yes, I'm confident the vast majority of Mass. voters would support a law that kept a governor of one party from appointing the replacement for a senator of the other party.  Little matter of fairness there.


    I definitely agree that it's (5.00 / 3) (#11)
    by dk on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:47:30 AM EST
    good that Kennedy is finally preparing his constituents for the inevitable.  It couldn't be easy for him, and he'd done so much for us in MA over the decades.

    That said, I don't think the current law is going to change anytime soon.  This AP story gives, IMO, a good summary of why it probably won't happen.

    Amid similar speculation about a Senate vacancy last fall, when Kerry was under consideration for secretary of state, Senate President Therese Murray was adamant that the law not be changed. After recent inquiries from The Associated Press, aides to both Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo said they are unlikely to back any change.

    Aides to both leaders say an election was more democratic than a gubernatorial appointment, and they cited the legal and political problems that plagued former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and New York Gov. David Paterson when they filled vacancies for President Barack Obama and former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, respectively.

    Secretary of State William Galvin, who oversees elections in Massachusetts, said Thursday the law cannot be changed without debate, public hearings and a vote by the Legislature while meeting in formal session. The Legislature is currently in informal session, meaning an objection by one lawmaker can hold up the change.

    "This is not a change that could happen today," Galvin said. He said there is no provision in current law for any kind of interim appointment.

    Murray is also a strong backer of Martha Coakley, the first female attorney general in Massachusetts and someone who has quietly laid the groundwork for a special-election campaign.

    In a joint statement to The Boston Globe, which first reported news of Kennedy's letter, both Murray and DeLeo were noncommittal.

    "We have great respect for the senator and what he continues to do for our commonwealth and our nation. It is our hope that he will continue to be a voice for the people of Massachusetts as long as he is able," they said.

    As someone who lives in the state, this sounds like a pretty accurate summary of the situation.  

    Kennedy has held this senate seat longer than most MA residents have been alive.  The politics of replacing him is a far bigger deal in this state than the fate of the non-public option "public option."

    I would want to examine that question (none / 0) (#14)
    by andgarden on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:54:18 AM EST
    more closely. Democrats have supermajorities in both chambers IIRC. If there's a constitutional limit on what they can pass now, they'd have a problem. But if it's just their own rules--suspend them.

    Missing the point. (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by dk on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:57:43 AM EST
    It's not that they can't change the law.  It's that there would likely never be a local political consensus on how to do it.

    I'm not missing that point--I think it's obvious (none / 0) (#17)
    by andgarden on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:59:04 AM EST
    And it seems to me that's exactly what Ted is asking them for.

    Right, and my point was (none / 0) (#22)
    by dk on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:01:31 AM EST
    that despite the request, this article explains why it's still likely not to happen.

    It would be very sad indeed (none / 0) (#26)
    by andgarden on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:05:15 AM EST
    if a bunch of petty minor MA pols stand in the way of healthcare reform.

    If you're talking (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by dk on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:09:20 AM EST
    about the non-public option "public option," I would hardly call that reform (unless you are insurance company executive looking for a bigger bonus).

    But in any event, I don't buy the idea that this would ever come down to really needing Kennedy's vote anyway, so it all seems rather over-dramatic to me.


    It also would be very sad (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by Cream City on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:14:36 AM EST
    if the Democrats in the Senate, the major leagues, can't get their act together to the point that they have to worry about what's happening in the minor leagues -- one of 50 minor-league teams, for that matter.  

    It is more telling about Dems in Congress than it is about Dems in one state's legislature.


    I read about this early this a.m. (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:21:51 AM EST
    and I got tears.

    me too (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:15:56 PM EST
    It really feels like this is the end.  And he's still got his eye on doing what's right by the people.

    Even though I disagree with (none / 0) (#52)
    by dk on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:25:22 PM EST
    Kennedy's request (I'm of the opinion that it's about time that Governors get out of the senatorial appointment business entirely) I think this allows the people and leaders of Massachusetts to be able to start talking about his replacement without using hushed tones.  Death is a fact of life, and it is a good thing that Kennedy himself has given his blessing, so to speak, for people to talk about it out in the open.

    I think it's fine (5.00 / 1) (#53)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:28:16 PM EST
    Especially if they agree (since I don't think it's legal to require) not to run in the special election.

    But yes, we do need to start thinking about the next senator.  It's been a long time since we've had to.  Especially since this person will probably be in the office for a long time.


    You have an extra (none / 0) (#2)
    by Steve M on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:26:36 AM EST
    word - "amending" - in your second paragraph.

    Thanks (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:34:25 AM EST

    This is a sad development and unfair (none / 0) (#7)
    by Molly Bloom on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:41:48 AM EST
    to the senator most closely associated with health care reform (yes I acknowlege life is ironic and unfair sometimes).

    On the other hand, as BTD stated

    Kudos to Sen. Kennedy for again proving he is a man who puts the people first.

    disagree (1.00 / 1) (#21)
    by bocajeff on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:01:08 AM EST
    this was something known for quite some time. to do this now was, while totally understanding, a bit selfish.

    Hey, I thought I was (2.00 / 2) (#39)
    by brodie on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:32:54 AM EST
    doing my part yesterday, in my own way of course, to point out some of the unfortunate undertones of that thread from so many posters, as well as note how it was reasonable for the citizens of MA to give the man who had given them so much some time (w/n reason) to recover.

    Might have been one other poster who noted the ghoulish tone to many of the comments (though s/he later undid that good work with a nasty comment about all the Kennedy family).

    At times the thread read like something you'd see at a RW site.


    I'm the one who used "ghoulish" (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by Cream City on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:12:26 PM EST
    but if you think the followup was a "nasty" comment, you haven't been following the history of the Kennedy clan.  I said that some are not devout, but that some are so.  That was a fair assessment, based on facts.

    If you think that all are devout Catholics, who have followed the precepts of their faith, then you have not read the books about them . . . or even the news coverage of them.


    Absurd (none / 0) (#40)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:41:31 AM EST
    Nothing ghoulish about noting the obvious - a person with brain cancer is facing mrotality.

    What a BS comment. Take a 2.


    well, (none / 0) (#50)
    by bocajeff on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:21:33 PM EST
    I can't be selfish since this doesn't have anything to do with me other than my own edification. However tragic the situation may be, his job is to be representative of the people of Mass. If he can't do the job then he is being selfish for hanging on - and I think it's for his own ego. Has he earned it? Nope. I don't think any elected representative earns anything other than the opportunity to represent their constituents.

    Not only do I think he should resign, I also think Sen. Byrd should resign, as well as any other person who can not do their jobs (with the exception of a temporary illness).

    If it's selfish to want representatives to represent, then call me selfish.


    Is it selfish (5.00 / 1) (#51)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:25:02 PM EST
    to want representation without a gap?

    With Kennedy there, there is the possibility that he could be flown in for important votes.  Without Kennedy, we got nothing.  That's why he's calling for a law change.  So we don't have to wait 5 months for representation.  He's hanging on because he doesn't want healthcare reform to fail.  So selfish and egotistical of him.


    I just love (none / 0) (#57)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:45:51 PM EST
    this idea that a guy with brain cancer is "selfish," especially one who's been reelected by his constituents, usually overwhelmingly, for 40-something years.

    it's disgusting (5.00 / 1) (#60)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:49:39 PM EST
    Some people cannot get over their Kennedy hate.

    Also, the idea that the legislature doesn't have the right to change the law.  Or that it's somehow "not fair" to save one of the most consistently liberal seats in the senate for a Democrat.  It's not like we haven't voted on senators every 6 years.  We LIKE having a liberal in that seat.


    Can you point (none / 0) (#71)
    by Wile ECoyote on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 03:06:42 PM EST
    out the Kennedy hate here?  

    The appointed replacement gets too much (none / 0) (#10)
    by Exeter on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:45:43 AM EST
    of a leg up, though, in the next election. Maybe if they had a provision that the replacement could not run for their seat, that would make sense. But, I don't like the idea of Kennedy pushing for his wife and then her having instant incumbent status.  This is especially troublesome in states that are solid GOP or solid Dem-- like Massachusetts-- and the appointee is basically in there forever, without facing a primary.

    Kennedy in his letter (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by brodie on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:50:01 AM EST
    called for the interim replacement to make strong assurances to the gov that s/he would not run in the special election.  

    That, and his wife's statement to the press the other day that she had no interest in the seat on any basis, should put to rest the notion that Teddy is somehow scheming to put his wife in office.


    Some of you guys (none / 0) (#58)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:46:44 PM EST
    have the weirdest fantasies about Ted Kennedy and how he operates.

    Good for Ted (none / 0) (#13)
    by andgarden on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:53:08 AM EST

    As a NY'er I hope somehow (none / 0) (#23)
    by vicndabx on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:03:27 AM EST
    Caroline ends up replacing him.  This IMO, seems to make more sense than any prior drive to make her a senator from NY.  If understanding of the issues is the only requirement, carpetbagger cries notwithstanding.....

    That said, Ted, is for sure a statesman and a solid citizen advocate w/calls for action now on the state's behalf.

    My guess is (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:06:08 AM EST
    it will be Martha Coakley after a special election.  She is the attorney general.

    I hope you're right! (none / 0) (#68)
    by itscookin on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 02:01:35 PM EST
    She would be a fantastic choice.

    In a pig's eye (5.00 / 1) (#61)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:50:59 PM EST
    You keep her.

    Mass. has a whole stable of first-rate Dem. politicians who know what they're doing and are ready to step up, not the least of which is AG Martha Coakley.


    Based on her interviews (none / 0) (#28)
    by Cream City on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:06:13 AM EST
    I can see why you would not want her to represent your state.  But in the Senate at all?  Why?

    I think you misread my comment. (none / 0) (#37)
    by vicndabx on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:20:26 AM EST
    I have no issue w/her being a senator.  I didn't really have an issue w/her being a Senator from NY (as long as she had a firm grasp of our issues).  The NY stuff just pissed me off because of the pre-ordained aspect of it and the idea that Paterson was some kind of idiot since he didn't just appoint her straightaway.

    I know you have no issue (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by Cream City on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:19:31 PM EST
    with her being a Senator.  I'm asking why, based on her interviews, you have no issue with it.

    I sure do.


    My perspective is from my view here in NY (none / 0) (#59)
    by vicndabx on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:48:12 PM EST
    (Sorry BTD is this is slightly OT) Personally, I like Dave Paterson.  I think insights learned as a State Senator and time served (albeit short) under Spitzer have served/will serve him well as Governor.  I think he's gotten a bum rap because of our economy, and also his "handling" of Caroline Kennedy once Hillary left for State.  I wouldn't mind seeing her go to the senate for purely political reasons.  It may placate those here in NY w/a grudge against the governor, and thus increase his chances for re-election.  If she's a crappy senator, folks in MA don't take a lot of stuff, they'd run her outta there.

    Here's the thing (5.00 / 2) (#63)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:52:35 PM EST
    we have a lot of prominent Dems in MA, some of them even with the Kennedy last name.  There are plenty of local politicians I could see running for that seat.  I don't really see caroline beating them.

    An interesting theory (none / 0) (#62)
    by Cream City on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:52:01 PM EST
    and thanks.  But I have to disagree about the power of incumbency, not to mention the name Kennedy, in Massachusetts.

    We'll I must confess I know nothing about (5.00 / 1) (#65)
    by vicndabx on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 01:09:59 PM EST
    MA politics, so......

    Heh, y'all really don't like Carolyn Kennedy do ya (none / 0) (#64)
    by vicndabx on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 01:07:27 PM EST



    Used to like her a lot (none / 0) (#66)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 01:44:21 PM EST
    Not no more.  The whole NY debacle soured me, and a lot of other folks, on her pretty seriously.

    In my state interim appointment (none / 0) (#70)
    by MrConservative on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 02:57:26 PM EST
    Is what allowed the Republicans to win the seat in 2008.  The Republican appointment was unknown, but his time as senator allowed him to become well known enough to take down Musgrove, who was polling better than him in every poll up to the time the Republican was appointed.