KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Kennedy’s Successor To Be Chosen By Special Election, Though Some Plan To Revisit This Requirement

Even before he died, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., focused attention on how his Senate successor would be chosen. That issue again is landing in the news.

The Associated Press reports that Kennedy's senate successor will be chosen by special election, not by the governor of Massachusetts. "Massachusetts law requires a special election for the seat no sooner than 145 days and no later than 160 days after a vacancy occurs. The law bans an interim appointee. The law was changed in 2004, when Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., became his party's presidential nominee and Republican Mitt Romney was the state's governor. Before the change, the governor would have appointed a replacement to serve until the next general election."

"That would have created the opportunity for Romney to install a fellow Republican in office, a move that Democrats who control the state legislature sought to prevent." Kennedy wrote a letter last week asking lawmakers in that state to change the law, though the Democrat-controlled Massachusetts legislature has given no indication it will do so (8/26).

The Boston Herald reports, however, that a plan to give Gov. Deval Patrick power to appoint a temporary successor has the attention of the Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo. "While DeLeo has been publicly silent on the controversial measure tagged a power play by critics, the speaker indicated his tacit support. The Winthrop Democrat met with his inner circle Monday to discuss the late senator's request for the temporary appointment and is looking at ways to fulfill the proposal as lawmakers started collecting votes, according to sources" (Chabot, 8/26).

Reuters reports that Kennedy's death adds another chapter to the health care reform saga: "Still, because of competing political and economic pressures, many congressional analysts figure a healthcare bill will be signed into law this year. But they say it is certain to fall far short of Kennedy's goal of covering all of the estimated 46 million Americans without health insurance" (Ferraro, 8/26).

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