Sen. Kennedy wants to make sure Mass. has two Senators

The Senate is an institution where members tend to think about themselves and the institution first. But, today, we saw an exception. Senator Kennedy wants to make sure that health insurance reform is not derailed by a vacant Massachusetts Senate seat. He wants state law changed to insure any vacancy is filled immediately — on an interim basis — until the election is held for a successor. From the Boston Globe, which secured a copy of Kennedy’s letter to Massachusetts officials:

In a personal, sometimes wistful letter sent Tuesday to Governor Deval L. Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, Kennedy asks that Patrick be given authority to appoint someone to the seat temporarily before voters choose a new senator in a special election.

Although Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, does not specifically mention his illness or the health care debate raging in Washington, the implication of his letter is clear: He is trying to make sure that the leading cause in his life, better health coverage for all, advances in the event of his death.

In his letter, which was obtained by the Globe, Kennedy said that he backs the current succession law, enacted in 2004, which gives voters the power to fill a US Senate vacancy. But he said the state and country need two Massachusetts senators.

“I strongly support that law and the principle that the people should elect their senator,’’ Kennedy wrote. “I also believe it is vital for this Commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election.’’

Under the 2004 law, if Kennedy were to die or step down, voters would select his successor in a special election to be held within five months of the vacancy. But the law makes no provisions for Massachusetts to be represented in the Senate in the interim. In the meantime, President Obama’s plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system, the fate of which may hinge on one or two votes, could come before Congress.

Oddly, I was having a conversation about this very subject yesterday. The shared sense of the people with whom I was speaking was that Ted Kennedy would put the issue of health care first — above and beyond his own interests. He proved that with his letter.

Very few people know the actual condition of Senator Kennedy. Right now, that is a private matter. But, it was widely reported that the Senator missed the funeral of his sister, Eunice, last week. The Globe noted Kennedy aides “were adamant yesterday that the timing of the letter did not reflect any imminent emergency in the health of the senator.” Okay. But, the situation doesn’t sound good.

One other thing: The Globe reported that Vicki Kennedy, the Senator’s wife, doesn’t want an appointment and won’t run. There had been rumblings that she was interested in the job. This should put those rumors to rest once and for all.

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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