Massachusetts Senate Passes Kennedy Successor Bill The Massachusetts state Senate voted Tuesday to change state law on how to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat. The proposed change would give the governor power to name an interim appointment. Gov. Deval Patrick could sign the measure as soon as Wednesday. The state House voted last week to change the law.
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Massachusetts Senate Passes Kennedy Successor Bill

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Massachusetts Senate Passes Kennedy Successor Bill

Massachusetts Senate Passes Kennedy Successor Bill

Massachusetts Senate Passes Kennedy Successor Bill

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The Massachusetts state Senate voted Tuesday to change state law on how to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat. The proposed change would give the governor power to name an interim appointment. Gov. Deval Patrick could sign the measure as soon as Wednesday. The state House voted last week to change the law.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MADELEINE BRAND, Host:

NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

TOVIA SMITH: With a state legislature that's overwhelmingly Democratic considering whether to allow the Democratic governor to temporarily fill an empty U.S. Senate seat, it should have been easy. But the debate over the interim appointment has been among the most contentious and controversial in memory.

SIEGEL: This just smacks in the face of everything that we've been doing for the last year and a half. The people are outraged.

SMITH: So Democrats took away the power and set up the special election. Now, with a Democratic governor back in charge, Democrats have changed their minds. Again, Republican Senator Brown.

SIEGEL: It makes absolutely no sense. I just think it's bad government. The people are outraged. They want their government back.

SMITH: But when Republicans holler about playing politics, some Democrats, like Senator Steven Tolman, shrugs.

SIEGEL: La-di-da. I mean, come on. Let's be realistic. It's politics. Politics is not a dirty word. Politics is what it is. You know what? I'm making a decision that I think is right, and that's what I'm doing, and let the voters judge me on that.

SMITH: Other Democrats justify their change of heart, saying it would be wrong to let Senator Kennedy's passing jeopardize the health care legislation he called the cause of his life. Democratic efforts in Washington to pass health care overhaul may well hinge on the one extra vote from Massachusetts because it would bring the Democrats to the magic number of 60, a filibuster-proof majority. Democratic State Senator Marc Pacheco.

SIEGEL: It's like a big wrestling match. We do not want to have a state in the middle of that wrestling match with one hand tied behind our back.

SMITH: Everyone from the White House to Senator Kennedy's widow have made calls pushing lawmakers to change the law, and Democratic Governor Deval Patrick says he would be ready to name an interim senator right away. He hasn't named names, but speculation is swirling around former Governor Michael Dukakis, who's particularly well-versed on the issue of health care and who won the support today of the Boston Globe editorial page. But Dukakis also drew some scorn from Republicans like Minority Leader Richard Tisei.

SIEGEL: Good grief, a record of serving the state effectively? Whoever wrote this was not living in Massachusetts in 1990 when the state was pretty much going right down the tubes. That's the last thing - I mean, this is like a - talk about being stuck in a time warp.

SMITH: Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston.

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