Feature

Ted Kennedy's succession plea

Should Massachusetts change its rules so the ailing senator's seat won't be vacant for health-care votes?

Ted Kennedy is at it again, said Howie Carr in the Boston Herald. In 2004, Kennedy pushed the Massachusetts Legislature to change the law on replacing senators so a Republican governor, Mitt Romney, wouldn't get to pick Democrat John Kerry's successor if he won the presidential election. Now Kennedy is gravely ill with brain cancer, but there's a Democratic governor, so he sent a plea to state lawmakers to let the governor appoint a temporary stand-in. It's time to say no to these "shenanigans."

"In general, tinkering with these laws, based on specific circumstances, strikes me as a bad idea," said Steve Benen in Washington Monthly, "but the mistake seems to be the 2004 change," not the one Ted Kennedy proposed in his poignant, personal request. Health care was a leading cause of Kennedy's life, so it "seems entirely reasonable" that he doesn't want his seat vacant, awaiting a special election, when health-care reform comes to the Senate floor.

This is "where the rubber hits the road on all that talk about Senate civility and courtliness and respect," said Ezra Klein in The Washington Post. If Kennedy dies or has to relinquish his seat, the Democrats will be left one shy of the 60 votes they need to prevent a filibuster and pass their health-care proposals. If that happens, a Republican should vote as Kennedy would have -- "it is neither decent nor small-d democratic to doom health care because the bill's greatest advocate contracted incurable brain cancer."

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