Ted Kennedy’s seat filled the wrong way


by Jeff Fecke | September 18, 2009 • You know, I don’t know if it’s just me, but this makes me really uncomfortable:

The Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday allowing Gov. Deval Patrick to name an interim appointment to the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Edward Kennedy.

The House voted 95-58 in favor of the bill. The bill now moves to the state Senate for its consideration.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Democrat, said the change is needed to ensure Massachusetts continues to be represented by two senators until voters can choose a replacement during a Jan. 19 special election.

“I just want to make sure that Massachusetts has a say … that Massachusetts has their voice heard on health care, on the environment, on clean energy,” DeLeo said.

Patrick, a Democrat and ally of President Barack Obama, also supports the change.

Republicans, who number just 16 in the House, oppose the bill.

They point out that Democrats changed the succession law in 2004 to create a special election and block then-Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, from naming a temporary replacement if Sen. John Kerry had won his presidential bid.

This is partisan game-playing at its most egregious and disappointing. Don’t like the rules of the game? Change ‘em to better ones.

Jeff Fecke is a freelance writer who lives in Eagan, Minnesota.In addition to his own blog, Blog of the Moderate Left, he also contributes to Alas, a Blog, Minnesota Campaign Report, and AlterNet. Fecke has appeared as a guest on the “Today” show, the Alan Colmes radio show, and the Mark Heaney Show. Fecke is divorced, and the father of one really terrific daughter. His debut novel, The Valkyrie’s Tale, is now available.

Democrats were justly outraged when Texas decided to redistrict mid-decade, in a naked attempt to grab a few more seats in the House of Representatives for the GOP. It was a purely political move, done simply because the Democrats in Texas were unable to stop it.

Well, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Democrats hold a 143-16 advantage in the House of Representatives, and a 35-5 advantage in the Senate. Indeed, one of the reason that residents of the state were willing to elect moderate Republicans like Bill Weld and (then-moderate) Mitt Romney was that the governor’s position is pretty much irrelevant. The Democrats in Massachusetts can pretty much do whatever they want, and even an overwhelming Republican wave is unlikely to leave the Democrats with less than a supermajority in both houses.

And so, because they can do whatever they want, they do whatever they want.

I know, I know, this gives Democrats the magic 60th vote in the Senate, and gives us the ability to break the fillibuster without Sens. Collins and/or Nelson and/or Baucus and/or Snowe. But frankly, that only makes it worse. Democrats will likely push through the most consequential social reform in forty years thanks in part to naked partisan game-playing.

Yes, I know the Republicans did it when they were in charge. And I know that politics ain’t beanbag, and you’ve got to throw an elbow now and again. But that doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t make it just, and it doesn’t make it anything other than what it is: a slap in the face of democracy.