KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Kirk Named To Replace Kennedy, Bringing Senate Democrats To Crucial 60 Votes

Democrats again reach 60 seats in the Senate with the announcement of Ted Kennedy's interim replacement. The Los Angeles Times reports that Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick "named Paul Kirk Jr., a former Democratic National Committee chairman and close friend and former aide of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, to serve as a temporary replacement for the deceased senator until a special election for the seat is held in January." This appointment will the Democratic caucus to that "crucial" number of holding 60 votes "as the party presses for the healthcare legislation that the White House is demanding."

When Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., passed away last month, Senate Democrats no longer had "a filibuster-proof 60-vote bloc." 

"Massachusetts law calls for a special election to fill a Senate vacancy, and that will be held in January. But the state Legislature this week passed a bill permitting the governor, Democrat Deval Patrick, to appoint an interim successor until the election is held" (Silva, 9/24).

The Hill reports: "Massachusetts Republicans called it a political power grab and questioned Patrick's legal authority to appoint Kirk so soon after the State Legislature granted him the power. The state GOP is seeking an injunction to delay the appointment, and the injunction will be the subject of an 8 a.m. Friday hearing. Kirk is set to be sworn in later in the day, at 3:15 p.m. in Washington."

"The GOP has cried foul because Democrats in the state were effectively giving Patrick appointment powers they had stripped from GOP Gov. Mitt Romney just five years ago, when Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was the Democratic nominee for president. Senate Republicans could block Kirk with a filibuster if they maintained party unity. Democrats would need 60 votes to quash a filibuster, and they control only 59 seats after Kennedy's death" (Blake, 9/24).

The Boston Globe reports: "To Democrats, Paul Kirk is a known, highly regarded quantity in the clubby Senate, an experienced and genial behind-the-scenes operative who will closely follow the legislative path carved by the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, his former boss and longtime friend. Those who knew Kennedy, the legendary Senate leader, and know Kirk, his loyal aide-de-camp, said yesterday that there was little daylight between their political philosophies. That leads Democrats to expect a seamless transition once he is sworn in this afternoon -- and to count on Kirk as a loyal soldier in the battle with Republicans in the health care debate" (Williams, 9/25).

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