Saturday, August 29, 2009

Massachusetts Power Grab

Ladies and Gentlemen...the political power grab is on in Massachusetts, under the guise of "reasonableness"...

The big news in the political world this week was the death of the "Liberal Lion" Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) from brain cancer. While not unexpected given the nature of the disease Kennedy's death comes at a bad time for President Obama and Democrats. Senator Kennedy was one of 60 Democrats in the Senate and 60 is the magic number to pass any type of legislation because a filibuster can only be stopped with 60 votes. A filibuster is a legislative tool to tie up a piece of legislation and cause it to not move forward in the legislative process. Because of the issues surrounding the debate on health care reform Senate Democrats desperately need every vote they can get to pass a bill which means obtaining a coalition of Senators (Democrats and Republicans) to reach the magic 60. Senator Kennedy was a solid vote for health care reform and his vote would have made Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) slightly easier.

Unfortunately Kennedy's death has brought another conflict into the health care debate. Massachusetts election law requires that a vacancy in a congressional seat (House of Representatives or the Senate) must be filled through a special election that takes place 145 - 160 days after the vacancy. In the case of Kennedy's seat this would push back the date to fill the vacancy to mid-January 2010.

Massachusetts law with regard to congressional vacancies is very unusual. In most states the governor is authorized to appoint an individual to the seat immediately until a special election can take place, either at the next general election (common) or in a special election as prescribed by state law. Massachusetts law stipulates that the seat must remain vacant until the special election takes place; an interim appointee cannot hold the seat until the special election.

The reason for this unusual arrangement is due to a fairly recent change in the Massachusetts law. In 2004 the Massachusetts state legislature changed the election law by stripping the power of the governor to appoint an interim successor in the event of a vacancy. This was done for purely political reasons: the Governor of Massachusetts in 2004 was Republican Mitt Romney and the Democratic Candidate for President of the United States was Senator John Kerry. In the event that Senator Kerry defeated incumbent President George W. Bush, Massachusetts Democrats feared that Governor Romney would appoint a Republican to fill Senator Kerry's open seat when he ascended to the presidency. Massachusetts Democrats reasoned that they would have a better chance of retaining the seat in a statewide election in the very liberal state. Governor Romney vetoed the legislation but the veto was overturned by the Democratically-controlled state legislature and became law. Ironically it never became an issue as a result of President Bush's re-election however it is now returning to bite the Democrats back.

A week before his death Senator Kennedy sent a letter to the current Democratic Governor of Massachusetts, Devil Patrick, requesting that the law be changed back to the old system where the governor has the authority to appoint an interim successor. Ironically Kennedy supported the change in law back in 2004 when it benefited Democrats. Governor Patrick has publicly stated this is a "reasonable" request and it appears that the Democratic leaders in the state legislature are getting on board. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is getting into the act, even though he is a senator from Nevada. Thank you Harry Reid. So it looks like the power grab is on...

During the last six years of the Bush Administration many liberals in the Washington, DC area liked to sport bumper stickers on their cars with the message: "If you aren't angry then you aren't paying attention" which was a protest to the policies of the Bush Administration by self-righteous liberals who felt it necessary to point out to the rest of us how bad our thinking was concerning the War on Terrorism, Iraq and civil liberty issues. Well I would challenge these same liberals with their own mantra: "If you aren't angry then you aren't paying attention." The rules are the rules and you can't continue to change them when it suits you politically. This is why people don't trust politicians and why there is so much anger and fear about the proposed health care reform. Democrats will reach a new level of hypocrisy if they go through with this. The Hat Trick isn't saying Republicans wouldn't do this is the table was reversed (Texas redistricting in 2003 comes to mind) but the bottom line is that it's wrong and sends the message that the rules don't matter, only political power. Liberals were incensed at the Texas redistricting 2003 yet feel the Massachusetts power grab is justified "because health care reform was so important to Ted Kennedy."

We'll see where this goes and a legal challenge is highly likely which could tie this issue up longer then it would take to fill the seat through a special election in January 2010. Regardless, the fact that it is being seriously discussed is offensive and people really need to start paying more attention.

1 comment:

Rand Peck said...

This, along with much more hypocrisy, forced my family to flee our native Massachusetts for the a far more sensible New Hampshire more than 30 years ago.