This shows you that Democrats will do any thing, even try to change the laws to stay in power so they can get what they want.
By STEVE LeBLANC, Associated Press Writer
BOSTON – For nearly half a century, Sen. Edward Kennedy has guarded his family’s political legacy. Stricken with cancer and as Congress takes up his signature issue, he is tending to his own.
Kennedy asked Massachusetts lawmakers to change state law … to give President Barack Obama, the ability to appoint an interim replacement to Kennedy’s seat should Kennedy be unable to continue serving., a fellow Democrat and supporter of
Under state law, an election is required within 145-160 days after a Senate seat becomes vacant. That would temporarily leave Massachusetts without a voice in the Senate — and Senate Democrats potentially one vote short on any health care overhaul legislation.
Kennedy said he supports the special election process, but wants to ensure the seat is filled during the course of the election.
“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,” Kennedy said in a letter to Patrick.
For Kennedy, the proposal is about more than just the mechanics of succession.
Health care has been Kennedy’s core issue for decades. Although Democrats hold a potentially filibuster-proof margin in the Senate, the fate of a sweeping health care bill could hinge on a single vote and some moderate Democrats have been wavering. Another Democrat, Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, has been seriously ill and often absent.
Leaving supporters of a health care overhaul a vote short could put that piece of his legacy in jeopardy.
“I think he’s simply being cautious about the future in order to protect issues he cares deeply about, most importantly health reform,” said former Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman Philip Johnston. “It’s a statement of his commitment to health reform and his support of President Obama.”
The clock for a special election is triggered either on the date of a resignation or the incumbent’s death.
Though Massachusetts is dominated by Democrats, a change in the law isn’t a sure thing. That’s particularly true when the change has to do with the prickly topic of succession to one of the state’s top political prizes.
Any change could not happen immediately. Lawmakers are not expected to return to formal sessions until after Labor Day.
Patrick, on vacation this week, issued a statement but gave no indication if he would support the change.
“It’s typical ofto be thinking ahead, and about the people of Massachusetts, when the rest of us are thinking about him,” said Patrick, who just last fall noted more than 40 other states fill congressional vacancies by gubernatorial appointment.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo — both Democrats — were equally circumspect.and
“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 in a joint statement.
The state last changed its succession law in 2004 to require the special election. Before that the governor was allowed to name a successor. At the time, Democrats were worried that then-would be able to fill any vacancy created if Democratic Sen. John Kerry was elected president.
Republican House Leader Brad Jones said he proposed virtually the same idea in 2004 as Kennedy is proposing now — which would have allowed Romney to name someone to fill the seat on an interim basis — but it was overwhelmingly rejected by Democrats.
“If this is going to move forward, people are going to have to explain what’s changed between then and now,” said Jones, of North Reading.
There is currently a bill before lawmakers that would do exactly what Kennedy is asking: allow the governor to appoint an interim senator during the course of a special election. Rep. Michael Moran, D-Boston, House chairman of the Committee on Election Laws, said lawmakers are expected to hold a public hearing on the proposal in the fall.
Kennedy tried to mute fears that an interim appointee would have a head start in the election. He told the governor he should obtain from anyone he appoints “an explicit personal commitment not to become a candidate in the special election.”
Massachusetts Secretary William Galvin, also a Democrat, said he’s skeptical whether lawmakers could write such an agreement into law.
“I think there would probably be constitutional problems with that,” he said.
The letter was sent Tuesday, but Kennedy aides insist there is no material change in his condition since he was diagnosed with ain May 2008. Kennedy was initially treated with surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
“For almost 47 years, I have had the privilege of representing the people of Massachusetts in the United States Senate,” Kennedy wrote in his letter. He added that serving in the Senate “has been — and still is — the greatest honor of my public life.”
The 77-year-old has been convalescing at his homes in Washington and in Hyannis Port, as well as a rental property in Florida, but his absence from last week’s funeral for his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, prompted a flurry of questions about his health.
An aide said the letter was one of several written by Kennedy in early July. Another was to Pope Benedict XVI and was hand-delivered by President Barack Obama during a visit to the Vatican.
Despite speculation that Kennedy’s wife, Vicki, is interested in his Senate seat, family aides have said she is not interested in replacing her husband either temporarily or permanently. One of Kennedy’s nephews, former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, has also been described as interested.
Any race to succeed Kennedy would be crowded and fiercely fought.
Other potential Democratic candidates include state Attorney General Martha Coakley, U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch, , Edward Markey, James McGovern and , and former , now chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
On the Republican side, potential candidates include Cape Cod businessman Jeff Beatty, former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and Chris Egan, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Cooperation and Development.