MA Leg. Allows Gov. Patrick to Name Interim Senator

| Tue Sep. 22, 2009 5:52 PM EDT

The Massachusetts State Legislature has cleared the way for Governor Deval Patrick to appoint an interim replacement to fill the US Senate seat held by the late Edward Kennedy, according to a report in the New York Times.

The MA House had previously passed a bill to allow the Democratic Governor to pick someone to serve until a special election is held on January 19th. The state Senate also approved the measure this afternoon.

What seems like a short term, however, could have long lasting consequences, as the US Senate is working on critical pieces of legislation, including health care and a climate bill. With a Democrat in Kennedy's seat, the party would conceivably have the votes to block a Republican filibuster on both of these contentious issues. It's possible, that is, if the Democrats can act more like their rivals and maintain party unity for a few weeks.

There's no official word yet on who the Governor would appoint, but former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis' name has been mentioned frequently.

According to the story in the Times, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) read a note containing the news from Massachusetts, he reacted with a fist pump, celebrating the momentary victory that brings what Senator Ted Kennedy called "the cause of my life" -- affordable health-care coverage for all Americans -- a step closer to reality.

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Osha Gray Davidson is a contributing blogger at Mother Jones and publisher of The Phoenix Sun, an online news service reporting on solar energy. He tweets @thephoenixsun.

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