Just recently I wrote about the importance one Senator can have, if they represent the difference between 59 votes for cloture (to end a filibuster) and the 60 votes needed to end debate. Then a colleague followed up with a piece explaining that more is wrong with Congress than just the filibuster. Today, Ezra Klein provides this line of discussion with a sickly ironic twist: What if Ted Kennedy, the Senator who has made health care the cornerstone of his career, is unable to be present for a vote because of his serious health issues?
That’s right. There’s a very real possibility that Sen. Kennedy may vacate his seat if his health declines any further or in the unfortunate event of his death. Suddenly the Dems would fall back to 59 votes at best, because Massachusetts law requires a minimum of 145 days to find a replacement for the seat. Anticipating this, Sen. Kennedy has written a letter to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and other state leaders asking that state law be amended “through the normal legislative process” to allow the Governor to appoint an interim Senator to fill the vacancy until a special election can be held. Kennedy also suggests that the interim appointee pledge not to become a candidate in the special election.
It’s a good move on Kennedy’s part to plan for the worst. I, and many others, hope that he’ll be able to be present and vote in support of health reform, but if he’s unable to do so for any reason, it seems only right that his absence should not be an obstacle to health reform–the cause he has so often championed. At a time when the nation faces such a monumental piece of legislation, it also seems only right that the composition of the Congress should resemble that which the American people voted in support of in 2008: A Senate with 60 Democratic seats.