Teddy Kennedy playing politics
August 21, 2009
Like almost every Democrat in Massachusetts I admire Senator Kennedy. However that doesn’t alter the fact that he’s trying to play the same old partisan politics Democrats scream bloody murder over when played by Republicans.
When Senator Kerry was running for president and we had a Republican, Mitt Romney, as governor, our Democratic Party controlled legislature passed a law requiring a special election to replace senators who died or left office before the end of their terms.
This was done to prevent Romney from appointing a Republican if Kerry became president.
Not allowing the governor to appoint an interim senator had nothing to do with respect for the will of the people. Nobody pretended it did.
Senator Kennedy wants to assure that there’s a Democratic vote in the Senate should the health care bill come up and he’s not able to vote.
The leaders of our legislature, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and state Senate President Therese Murray, to their credit seem to be resisting pushing for a change in the law. There response to Kennedy’s request, in a joint statement was lukewarm:
"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."
According to the Boston Globe, the state senator from Kennedy’s home district on Cape Cod, Robert A. O’Leary said he would be proud to sponsor the new law: “Given his role in health care, it would be tragic if he wasn’t able to have a vote in that and it took one vote to get it done".
He doesn’t get it. This isn’t about one Senate vote.
Our Democratic governor, Deval Patrick, seems unlikely to back a change in the law because he can’t do anything to make himself even more unpopular than he already is. Many Democrats, myself included, are very disappointed with him and considering voting for his declared opponent, Democrat turned independent state Treasurer Tim Cahill, in 2010.
In the unlikely event the law is changed those who could be appointed among the field of state politicians most of you haven’t ever heard of are a few national figures. These are former labor secretary under President Clinton Robert Reich and Robert Kennedy’s son, former congressman Joseph Kennedy. Another possibility is former governor and 1988 presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.
I don’t see any of these as being interested in running for the seat in the special election so they would be placeholders. The others being mentioned are already members of the U.S. House of Representatives and our state attorney general, all of who may have their eyes on running in a special election.
I understand Senator Kennedy’s passion but this isn’t about one vote on health care.
It’s about what’s right and wrong and that transcends political party.
Even as most people here in Massachusetts grieve the loss of Senator Ted Kennedy an active topic of conversation involves what will happen in our legislature regarding his successor. (See Boston Globe article.)
Last week I wrote about Kennedy playing politics by urging that they pass a new law allowing Governor Patrick to appoint an interim Senator.
Our governor says he’ll sign such a bill and urges one be passed quickly. When asked about the hypocrisy of changing a law the the Democrats passed to prevent Republican Mitt Romney from appointing a new senator if John Kerry won the presidency he sidestepped a substantive answer saying (according to The Globe) that he wasn’t in office in 2004.
I still believe that what is good for the goose is good for the gander (or the elephant and donkey in political terms).
A special election will be held this winter. If Democrats in the Senate need one vote to pass health care reform they will just have to wait.
I have yet to see the only argument spelled out why this case is different from 2004. This is that when John Kerry ran for president he and the party knew it was likely that if he won he’d be replaced by a Republican. Now our empty seat is the result of a senator’s death.
I don’t think this is enough of a reason to change the law. I do think that if a new law is proposed it should differentiate between the two ways a seat becomes vacant.
If a seat becomes vacant because a Senator dies, has to resign for personal reasons, or is removed from office, an interim appointment is made by the governor. If a seat becomes vacant because the Senator takes another political job, be it elected office or a presidential appointment the seat must stay vacant until a special election is held.