Thursday, September 17, 2009

You Made Your Bed, Now Sleep In It

I have no particular interest in Massachusetts politics, but a recent story coming out of the Massachusetts legislative bodies highlights why the general public perception of elected representatives is at an all-time low.

Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy passed away recently (R.I.P.), vacating one of Massachusetts’ seats in the US Senate. Given the slim super-majority held by the Democrats in the US Senate, the vote attached to this seat is hugely important in the success or failure of various proposals before the Senate (health care, energy, card check, etc.). As such, Democrats are eager to fill that seat with one of their own as soon as humanly possible.

However, current Massachusetts law requires a special election to be held before the seat can be filled (undoubtedly by a Democrat – this is Massachusetts after all), and the earliest that election could be held is in January 2010.

In order to immediately fill this vacancy, the Massachusetts legislative bodies are in the midst of proposing legislation that would change the states succession law to permit the Governor to name an interim Senator to fill the vacancy until the special election is completed.

Sounds reasonable, right? What state wouldn’t want to make sure it has its full representation in the US Senate? That’s what Illinois did when Senator Obama became President Obama, so what’s the problem?

Prior to 2004, the Massachusetts Governor had the ability to name a temporary replacement, but in the run up to the 2004 Presidential Election, when Massachusetts Senator John Kerry was up against President Bush, the Massachusetts House and Senate (currently 90% and 88% Democrat, respectively) passed a bill that removed the Governor’s ability to immediately appoint a temporary replacement.

Why did they do that?

In 2004, Mitt Romney, a Republican, was Governor of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts legislature (again, mainly Democrats) was concerned that if Senator Kerry won the Presidential Election, his vacated US Senate seat would be filled by Romney with a fellow Republican. To alleviate that concern, they simply changed the law, removing the Governor’s power to appoint a temporary replacement, and requiring the seat to remain vacant until filled by the winner of a special election, which would unquestionably be won by a Democrat.

Fast forward to today. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, is now Governor of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts legislature has changed their tune.

Both bills remind me of the scene in Big Daddy when the 5-year old, Julian, is playing poker with the delivery guy and just changes the rules on each had so he always wins:

Julian – “I got a 2, a 4, a 10, an 8, and a 6. I WIN!!!”
Delivery guy – “WHAT??”
Julian – “I WIN!!!”
Delivery guy – “HEY I got the same hand as that last time and I didn't
Julian – “WELL I WIN!!!”

The Massachusetts Democrats are doing the same thing as 5-year old Julian – changing the rules on the fly to suit their current needs. What’s next, changing the law to say that only Kennedy’s or heirs to enormous ketchup fortunes can be elected to the US Senate in Massachusetts?

Unfortunately, this is just business as usual - politics for politics sake - and is a complete waste of government time and taxpayers money.


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