Not so fast, Sen. Kennedy

Aides to New York Gov. David Paterson are bristling over pressure to appoint Caroline Kennedy to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat.


Mike Madden
December 24, 2008 9:58PM (UTC)

Apparently there's at least one high-profile New York Democrat who isn't yet convinced Caroline Kennedy should go to the Senate. Unfortunately for Kennedy, it's Gov. David Paterson.

Wednesday's New York Times reports that aides to Paterson have begun pushing back against the notion that Kennedy's appointment is already lined up and ready to go. "You have people going around saying, 'Oh yeah, it's a done deal,'" the Times's Nick Confessore quotes one advisor saying. "The quickest way to not get something you want is to step into somebody's face."

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Stories like this one may be the best way of keeping up with the rising and falling fortunes of the people jockeying for the seat. The important parts of the Senate drama are playing out largely in private, since Paterson has the sole authority to name a successor to Hillary Clinton, who (in case you've just woken up from a postelection hangover) will be leaving her seat next year to serve as Barack Obama's secretary of state. The voters don't get to weigh in, though they will in just two years, when Paterson, Chuck Schumer (New York's senior senator), and whomever Paterson names to the seat will all be up for reelection. The thought of Kennedy waltzing in and claiming the seat without any previous electoral experience is chafing some observers (not to mention her rivals for the seat), who worry that she might not be the shoo-in for a full term her supporters think she is.

Paterson's aides appeared to be taking a harder line than the governor himself. He told reporters on Tuesday he wasn't under much pressure. "What I'm trying to keep away from is lobbying, coercion and distracting information," he said. "I don't feel rushed by any of this process. I have said from the very beginning what I thought the right way to do this would be."

There is a bit of a rush, though; the new Congress convenes on Jan. 6, which means Paterson probably needs to pick someone before then. Any delay might mean New York misses out on a little seniority loophole -- if Clinton resigns before Jan. 6, Paterson can name her replacement ahead of time, automatically putting the new senator higher in the all-important seniority rankings than any of the new members elected in November.


Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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