The Massachusetts Senate has approved a bill that would allow Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint a temporary successor to the late Sen. Ted Kenendy. The legislation was already approved by the House; after another procedural vote in both chambers, Patrick is expected to sign it and move quickly to name a new senator.
Whoever Patrick picks won't be in office for long -- a special election will be held early next year, and the winner will replace the interim senator. But whoever Patrick picks will likely have a big role to play in healthcare reform, which was Kennedy's primary focus towards the end of his life and is the reason for the speed with which the majority Democrat state legislature has moved.
The change overturns a law made not long ago, when the governor of Massachusetts was Republican Mitt Romney. At the time, legislators were concerned that if Sen. John Kerry won the presidency, Romney would get to name his replacement. But with Patrick, a Democrat, in office, and with Kennedy's death depriving Senate Democrats of a potentially pivotal 60th vote, there was a push -- led, before his death, by the late senator himself -- to rewrite the law again.