No further evidence of the decrepitude – the sheer depravity – American politics is necessary, but if it were, this case sums it up nicely.
Massachusetts law (like that of many other states) long empowered the state governor to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate (due to death or resignation) by appointing an interim senator who would fill the seat until the next election.
In 2004, the law was abruptly amended to strip the governor of that right (which really hasn’t worked well, in any event, as in Roland Burris and Rod Blagojevitch), and to call for a special election within six months. The impetus, of course, was not the imprudence of the legislation but a “technical” problem: John Kerry, the Democratic Senator, anticipating his election as President, persuaded the Democratic legislature to amend the law, which would have allowed then Republican Governor Mitt Romney to appoint his, presumably Republican, replacement.
It was duly amended, but Kerry, of course, lost the election.
Fast forward to 2009, as in “now.” With the death of Senator Kennedy, and having to wait six months for the “special election” that decides his successor, the Senate Democrats were suddenly left one-vote shy of the 60-seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. And with a Democratic governor now in office, the law stripping the governor of his appointment privileges now seemed like a bad idea, as he, Deval Patrick, would certainly appoint a Democrat.
So the legislature is currently debating a bill that would restore the old, pre-Romney, rule, allowing the governor to appoint a replacement pending the special election.
It would be a comical farce if it were not so cynical, manipulative and downright shameless.
Are politicians beyond shame ? Perhaps. But if they had even a shred of decency they would pass the following law, to avoid the necessity of re-visiting this scenario every few years: “Henceforth, US Senate vacancies from Massachusetts will be filled by gubernatorial appointment when the state governor is a Democrat, and by special election when the state governor is a Republican.”
Then they can return to the business of raising taxes to prop up their bankrupt state-mandated health insurance program.