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Sen. Edward Kennedy called on Massachusetts lawmakers to change the state's succession law for open U.S. senate seats.
In a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray, Kennedy asked that the governor be granted authority to appoint an interim replacement once Kennedy's seat is open. The current law says the seat would remain vacant until a special election. A process that could take up to five months.
"I strongly support that law and the principle that the people should elect their Senator; I also believe it is vital for this Commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election," Kennedy wrote.
His letter did not mention his battle with brain cancer, but the request comes as one of his greatest causes — an overhaul of the healthcare system — could be determined by just a few Senate votes. Kennedy's aides said the letter did not signify that anything had changed in the senator's condition.
State lawmakers would have to approve any changes to the law, but so far the legislative leadership is remaining noncommittal.
“We both received hand-delivered letters from Senator Kennedy. We have great respect for the senator and what he continues to do for our Commonwealth and our nation. It is our hope that he will continue to be a voice for the people of Massachusetts as long as he is able,” Murray and DeLeo said in a joint statement.
Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei criticized the proposal and noted that democrats rejected a similar measure in 2004, when it appeared then Republican Gov. Mitt Romney could have a chance to appoint a replacement for Sen. John Kerry.
"We should be a nation of laws in particular when it comes to elections and succession. They shouldn't be changed based on whatever the latest circumstance is or the personalities involved," Tisei said.
Avi Green, the executive director of MassVOTE said the Legislature should change the law governing the filling of senate vacancies right away, saying it would be "unacceptable" to deny a second senate vote to 6.5 million people in the state.
This is nothing any of us want to contemplate," Green said. "And yet it is because we respect his work so much that the legislature must act on his request today. ... (We) must all put politics aside and act now on his request."
This program aired on August 20, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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