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The Expansionist
Saturday, August 29, 2009
 
Appoint Teddy's Successor. Now. Mere days before he died, Teddy Kennedy urged Massachusetts to change the law that governs how a vacancy in the state's representation in the U.S. Senate is filled, to permit the Governor to appoint someone to fill in until a special election is held, which could be as long as 160 days after a vacancy occurs. This would restore the procedure that was in place prior to a change in the law in 2004. Bizarrely, and hypocritically (surprise, surprise), Republicans in Massachusetts (both of them, I believe) are bitching and moaning that Democrats changed the law in 2004 to prevent the Republican Governor at that time, Mitt Romney (who whistled quite a lot of different tunes in those days from the tunes he claims are dear to his heart now), from filling a vacancy that might have occurred had John Kerry been elected President, and now want to change it back again to favor Democrats again:
Massachusetts House GOP Leader Bradley Jones said ... "Out of political expediency and convenience, the Democrats are again considering showing a complete disregard of the democratic process and the laws of the Commonwealth by contemplating a change to the law to serve their partisan interests, as opposed to simply what is the best and most appropriate policy."
Do Republicans actually assert that it is in the best interest of the people of Massachusetts to have only one vote in the Senate when every other state has two? Surely not. The people of Minnesota went months with only one Senator during the Coleman/Franken recount hassle, and didn't like it. No major legislation was being actively considered during those months. But hugely important legislation is due to be acted upon before a special election could be held in Massachusetts according to the terms of the present law. Universal healthcare is likely to be voted on before a special election can be held (145 days from Teddy's death at the earliest). The people of Massachusetts under Romney enacted a (very bad) universal healthcare plan, and this is a matter of great importance to them, not just because it was what Ted Kennedy regarded as "the cause of his life", but because they care about universal healthcare. At end, however, it simply does not matter why the people want the law changed. The fact is that they do want the law changed, and that is reason enuf to change it. And why would the Republicans complain that the Democrats now want to go back to a procedure the Republicans pretended in 2004 that they didn't want changed in the first place?
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Reasonable people can compromise. A new law could provide for a very-temporary appointment to fill Kennedy's seat only until a special election in three weeks rather than five months. Massachusetts has run elections for hundreds of years. I'm sure they can arrange an election with one office without five months' preparation. Moreover, legislators can make any law they pass now expire by its terms after the special election, and permit the prior law to become active again.
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Any law can be made to expire by its own terms. The Bush tax cuts pushed thru by Republicans in 2001 and 2003 are set to expire at the end of next year (December 31, 2010). Why can't an interim succession law expire after the election of a permanent Senator for Kennedy's unexpired term?
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I have heard, on TV, speculation that a changed succession law could be passed by late September. What? Why on Earth should it take a month — indeed, why should it take even 2 days — to pass and put in place so trivial a law? It would have ONE provision if it were an ordinary law, and the prior law could serve as an exact model as to provisions and language. There are a number of states that have similar interim-appointment laws, and legislators have access to the text of those laws and to model legislation proposed by groups of legislators, the national bar association, etc. There is NO original drafting needed, NO original thinking needed. This is not uncharted ground, a daring new initiative the implications of which have to be thought thru carefully and deliberatively, with hearings and public feedback! This change would merely restore the status quo ante the 2004 change.
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The largest number of provisions such an act need have is two: (1) restoring the prior way of filling an evacuated Senate seat; and (2) having the current legislation expire after the election of a permanent Senator (be it in five months or three weeks), and reversion to the current law — if the Massachusetts government decides that a special election is a better way to go in ordinary times.
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These are not ordinary times. The Federal Government is working on an extraordinarily important, truly historic piece of legislation that was crucially important to a man who served as Massachusetts' Senator for 47 years. The proponents of this historic change face cold-hearted, entrenched obstructionism by a criminal conspiracy of Republican Radical Rightwingers in the pay of the health-insurance industry. A Democratic voice and vote on the side of the people — of Massachusetts, of the United States — in the Senate is extremely important. We cannot wait five months. We shouldn't have to wait for even one month for a champion of "the cause of [Teddy Kennedy's] life" to be seated in the United States Senate .
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Legislation of such limited scope on so simple a matter should not take more than one day. Two days at most. The inability of government to act on even the simplest thing has produced enormous contempt for legislatures all over the Nation, from Congress to state governments to city councils.
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Message to Massachusetts: This is not rocket science. Do it. Do it now. Do it in one day, and prove that Government can respond quickly to a problem that if not acted on immediately will not be solved. If you don't give Massachusetts a second Senator before the Senate acts on healthcare reform, don't bother to act at all but let the current (unwise) law stand — and pay the price in public disgust during the next regular election.
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(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,336 — for Israel.)



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