Massachusetts Senate vote next week on Kennedy seat
BOSTON, Sept 18 |
BOSTON, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Massachusetts state senators will vote next week on whether to allow the governor to name a temporary U.S. Senate replacement for the late Edward Kennedy and give Democrats a boost in the congressional healthcare battle.
The bill -- which would keep Kennedy's crucial 60th seat in the U.S. Senate from lying vacant until a permanent replacement can be elected in January -- passed easily in the state House of Representatives on Thursday. A closer vote is expected in the Senate, which on Friday postponed debate until next week.
State senators saw a vote likely around mid-week.
Kennedy was a towering figure in the U.S. Senate for nearly half a century who made healthcare reform his signature issue.
His death in August from brain cancer deprived the Democrats of the 60 votes in the Senate they would need to deflect any Republican attempt to stall President Barack Obama's overhaul of the $2.5 trillion healthcare system.
The Democratic Party overwhelmingly controls the Massachusetts legislature and Kennedy himself had pushed for a change in state law to let Democratic Governor Deval Patrick name an interim successor after his death.
Local Democrats are divided, however, as the move would reverse a law they passed in 2004 to prevent a Republican governor from being able to appoint a replacement senator if Democratic Sen. John Kerry had won the White House.
Worried about alienating voters, many Democrats have sided with Republicans to oppose the new legislation.
The House, where just a tenth of seats are Republican, voted by a wide margin in favor of naming a temporary senator, but the margin is seen much tighter in the 40-seat state Senate.
If it does pass in the Senate and is signed by Patrick, the governor is expected to name an interim senator within days.
The interim appointee would be "strongly discouraged", according to a separate resolution, from running in the Jan. 19 special election pick a Kennedy successor until 2012.
So far state Attorney General Martha Coakley, multi-millionaire private equity investor and basketball tycoon Stephen Pagliuca and U.S. Representative Mike Capuano have come forward to run in the Democratic primary for that election. (Reporting by Kevin McNicholas; Writing by Catherine Bremer, editing by Jackie Frank)
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