State Senate Gives Governor Power to Name Interim Senator

Filed in Featured, Headline, Politics by on September 23, 2009 0 Comments

What I wouldn’t give for a good, nonsensical gerrymander right now. The past month’s debate over how to fill the Senate seat vacated by the late Edward Kennedy has proven a perfect example of legal circumvention through political might, and I’m suddenly in the mood for some old fashioned, partisan politics.

Yesterday, the Democratic controlled state Senate passed a bill providing Governor Deval Patrick, also a Democrat, with the power to appoint an interim senator to fill Kennedy’s seat. The bill effectively reversed an existing law which specifically prohibited the governor from making such an appointment.
Though a special election must still be held in January to choose a replacement to serve the remainder of Kennedy’s term, Democrats, concerned that a sixty vote, filibuster-proof majority will be necessary to pass major healthcare legislation currently before Congress, moved swiftly to change the law.

The bill, which passed by a 24-16 vote with no Republican support, is a flagrant contortion of the law by the majority to exempt their actions and force through their policies. With no other way to ensure the vacant seat is filled before healthcare comes up for a final vote, Democrats resorted to an unethical maneuver solely to shore up support for their policies.Massachusetts State House

As if that weren’t ludicrous enough, the law barring a governor from making senatorial appointments was passed by Democrats just five years ago in a party-line vote. So why the sudden change?

In 2004, John Kerry’s presidential campaign posed a potential Senate vacancy for Republican Gov. Mitt Romney to fill. To prevent Romney from appointing a fellow Republican, Democrats in the state Congress stripped him of that power.

“We have always felt that this position is significant enough that no one person should make that determination,” then Senate President Robert E. Travaglini said of the vote. “It should be decided by the people.”

However, with a Democratic governor, things have changed. Suddenly, the importance of full representation trumps the law itself; the will of the people is now the will of the party to act in accordance with what they assume is the will of the people. For once, I find myself agreeing with the Massachusetts Republican Party which called the vote, “a stunning example of Democrat hypocrisy.”

Healthcare reform is both necessary and just. Yet it cannot be legitimately achieved through illegal maneuvers.

Enormous Democratic flip-flop aside, there is still the unethical quandary of senatorial appointments in general. There is too much room for the process to be corrupted, as the case of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich plainly showed. At the least, such appointments do not allow the people to choose their representation.

It doesn’t matter how important the legislation, or that the political appointment will expire in a few months anyway. Re-rewriting the law for the majority’s gain should not be allowed lest a precedent of immunity be established for those in power. And who will say next time whether this tactic is fair, or criminal?

Actually, the answer to that is simple: the party in power.

Photo Credit: current events

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