The Massachusetts legislature said on Monday that on September 9 it would "conduct a public hearing dealing with the interim filling" of the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy on August 25.
AFP - Massachusetts lawmakers will meet next week to decide whether to appoint a temporary successor to Edward Kennedy's Senate seat, officials said Monday.
As the US Congress geared up for fierce political battles, the Massachusetts' legislature said it "will conduct a public hearing dealing with the interim filling of... (Kennedy's) vacant Senate seat" on September 9.
Before his death Tuesday, Kennedy had urged his home state to change the law to allow someone to take his place in the US Senate in the interim before new elections.
Governor Deval Patrick announced Monday that elections to fill Kennedy's Senate seat will be held on January 19 as set out under current Massachusetts law which mandates a special election 145-160 days after a vacancy occurs.
"Massachusetts voters will have their opportunity to fill this Senate seat," Patrick pledged.
"But I will continue to work with the legislature on legislation authorizing an interim appointment to the US Senate for the five months until that special election happens which is bound to affect all of us."
Kennedy's death robs the Democratic Party of its crucial 60-seat majority in the Senate, just as lawmakers are set to return next week to debate key bills on health care reform and climate change.
President Barack Obama has pushed lawmakers to draft legislation radically overhauling the US health system, which currently leaves some 47 million people uninsured.
But the proposals have triggered a storm of grassroots protest, leaving their passage through the US Congress uncertain.
Mindful of what was at stake, Kennedy had urged his state legislature to appoint a temporary stand-in to help smooth the passage of bills.
Meghan Bartley, legislative aide of the state's committee on election law, told AFP that the Massachusetts lawmakers "have to figure out if they will change the current law. Every member of the House and Senate will attend the hearing."
Kennedy, who had thrown his support behind Obama, made health care reform one of his lifelong causes, and mourners at his funeral on Saturday, including one of his grandsons, urged that the campaign go on.
Some observers have called for Kennedy's senate seat to be temporarily filled by his widow, Vicki, until new elections can be organized. But she is said not to be interested.
The Boston Globe reported Monday that Joseph Kennedy, a former congressman and son of Robert Kennedy who was assassinated in 1968, could now run to replace his uncle.
"I'm not saying he is going to run, but he wouldn't be human and he wouldn't be a Kennedy if he didn't give serious thought to running for the so-called Kennedy seat," Dan Payne, a longtime Democratic media consultant, told the daily.
Other names being mentioned are veteran Democratic politicians Edward Markey, Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch.
Date created : 2009-08-31