By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s longtime confidant, Paul Kirk, has been named as Kennedy’s interim replacement until a special election scheduled for January, 2010.
According to the Catholic News Service (CNS), Kirk is the grandnephew of Boston’s first cardinal, Cardinal William O’Connell, and was a board member at Stonehill College, a Catholic school run by the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Easton, Massachusetts until 2006. He also served on the board of St. Sebastian’s, a Catholic boys’ school in Needham until 2004.
Unfortunately, Kirk is described as having many of the same political views as Kennedy, including support for legal abortion. The Kennedy reportedly backed Kirk’s appointment, saying they felt confident he would vote the way the late senator did on health care and other issues.
Democrats were anxious to fill the post with a like-minded politician before pending health care legislation came up for a vote, which is expected this fall. However, Democratic lawmakers in Massachusetts had to fast-track legislation that would allow Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to name a replacement.
Until 2004, senatorial replacements were filled by an appointment by the governor but the law was changed when lawmakers feared John Kerry would win the 2004 presidential race, thus allowing then- Republican governor Mitt Romney to name a replacement. A new law was passed which requires a successor to a vacant seat to be decided in a special election that takes place within 165 days of the vacancy.
However, this would have allowed one of Massachusetts Senate seats to be left vacant during what could be a crucial vote on health care reform, one of the late Senator’s signature issues. It was one of his last wishes that the law be changed to allow the governor to appoint at least an interim successor.
This legislation was passed into law on Sept. 24 and Kirk was sworn into the Senate by Vice President Joe Biden the next day.
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