If you are not paying attention to the Massachusetts Senate race to fill the seat once occupied by Edward Kennedy (and temporarily being filled by Paul Kirk), you should be. Despite being a Democrat running in a Democratic state, Martha Coakley is facing a surprising challenge from Scott Brown.
The race is attracting interest, because if Brown wins, his vote might be enough to stop health care reform dead in its tracks. As a consequence, Democrats in Massachusetts are up to skulduggery:
Few have considered the Jan. 19 election as key to the fate of national health-care reform because both Kirk and front-runner state Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic nominee, have vowed to uphold Kennedy’s legacy and support health-care reform.
But if Brown wins, the entire national health-care reform debate may hinge on when he takes over as senator. Brown has vowed to be the crucial 41st vote in the Senate that would block the bill.
The U.S. Senate ultimately will schedule the swearing-in of Kirk’s successor, but not until the state certifies the election.
Today, a spokesman for Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, who is overseeing the election but did not respond to a call seeking comment, said certification of the Jan. 19 election by the Governor’s Council would take a while.
“Because it’s a federal election,” spokesman Brian McNiff said. “We’d have to wait 10 days for absentee and military ballots to come in.”
Another source told the Herald that Galvin’s office has said the election won’t be certified until Feb. 20 – well after the president’s address.
Since the U.S. Senate doesn’t meet again in formal session until Jan. 20, Bay State voters will have made their decision before a vote on health-care reform could be held. But Kirk and Galvin’s office said today a victorious Brown would be left in limbo.
In contrast, Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) was sworn in at the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 18, 2007, just two days after winning a special election to replace Martin Meehan. In that case, Tsongas made it to Capitol Hill in time to override a presidential veto of the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
This is a ridiculous and offensive attempt to manipulate the political process in Massachusetts. There is no reason why Brown’s certification, in the event that he wins, should take any longer than did the certifications of Kennedy and John Kerry, when they won their respective Senate campaigns. Outrage will and should be the natural result if the certification is going to be delayed simply so that Paul Kirk will have more time to vote for a health care reform bill in the Senate.
It’s time for state Democrats in Massachusetts to pledge that they will play by the rules when it comes to the Senate election, and forswear any plan to delay Brown’s certification, in the event that he wins, just so that Paul Kirk can provide the crucial 60th vote for health care reform. And if Massachusetts Democrats refuse to take the honorable route, they deserve to be called out in public for their machinations–as would the U.S. Senate Democratic leadership, if it participates in any effort to thwart the will of Massachusetts voters if the results are not to the Democrats’ liking.
Oh, and perhaps it would be a good idea for President Obama to call for fair play on this issue. I’d hate to think that the White House will side with Massachusetts Democrats in what would be a blatantly unfair maneuver, simply because it would be politically convenient for them to do so.