Thursday, August 20, 2009

SHNS: GOP Drills Kennedy Proposal to Change Rules for Senate Seat

Beacon Hill has been packed with reporters all day, following the story that Senator Ted Kennedy is asking for a speedy replacement should he step down. Below is a piece recently posted by State House News Service.

Massachusetts Republicans said Thursday that Sen. Edward Kennedy’s plan to allow Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint an interim U.S. senator in the event of a sudden vacancy smacked of politics and would constitute a hypocritical about-face for many legislators – who voted against a similar GOP proposal five years ago. GOP legislators said they were concerned for Kennedy’s health as the senior senator battles brain cancer, but called the prospect of another change in state law governing the replacement of a federal official a matter of fairness.

House Minority Leader Bradley Jones said he was “stunned at the incredible hypocrisy that could be expected to unfold.” Republicans pointed out they offered an amendment in 2004, in the face of rising Democratic hope that U.S. Sen. John Kerry would be elected president and a rush to strip then-Gov. Mitt Romney of his Senate appointment power, that essentially mirrored the interim appointment model Kennedy proposed. “Given that a great many of the leadership voted against the change in 2004, one would hope for some consistency,” Jones said.

Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei agreed, saying, “It was brushed aside, and the people who were for changing the law were very vocal, so I just don’t see how they do a 180 and oppose what they were very much in favor of.” Tisei pointed out that Kennedy's predecessor in the Senate, Benjamin Smith, was appointed by then-Gov. Foster Furcolo.

Rep. Brad Hill, an Ipswich Republican, recalled that the House in 2004 rejected, along party lines, a Republican amendment calling for a temporary gubernatorial appointee to keep any vacated Massachusetts seat in the U.S. Senate occupied until a special election was held, and wondered why Kennedy didn’t support the plan at that time. “Unfortunately, this wreaks of politics, which is pretty sad,” Hill told the News Service.

Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) said he wasn’t aware of a legislative sponsor for Kennedy’s plan, but added, “When the senior senator makes a request it’s taken very seriously.” Tarr said he was concerned that state election policies were unstable and vulnerable to the political will of the majority party, the Democrats.