With Republicans apparently prepared to drop their parliamentary delays, a bill that would let Governor Deval Patrick appoint an interim successor to Edward M. Kennedy in the US Senate is poised for a full debate tomorrow in the state Senate.
“We’ll probably take it up tomorrow,” said Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, a Wakefield Republican. “I don’t know that there’s a lot to be gained by continuing to delay just to delay it. That’s not what we’re about. We’re trying to give people time to weigh in. We got the weekend out of it.”
“There comes a point when we’ve done whatever we can,” he added. “We’ll see what happens.”
By a 95-58 vote, House members last week approved the bill. Proponents of the bill argue that a second voice is needed to represent the state in Washington and that Kennedy would have wanted an appointee to push for a health care overhaul, while Republicans charge that Democrats are merely playing partisan politics to increase their majority in Washington.
Republicans, who hold only five of the 40 seats in the Senate chamber, had vowed to delay passage of the bill. Patrick has said he would make an appointment within days, sending the new senator to Washington until a Jan. 19 special election.
About a dozen state senators were in the chamber at 1 p.m. today, when the legislation was brought up. Tisei immediately called for debate to be postponed and within 10 minutes the session adjourned. Under Senate rules, a single senator can postpone debate until the next session. The Republicans also delayed debate on Friday.
Traditionally, this has been allowed to happen three times before the Senate president intervenes. Senate Republicans have used up two of their delays, meaning they could try a third time tomorrow. But they don’t appear prepared to do that.
“If we wanted to delay it for a lot longer, we could,” state Senator Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican, said this afternoon. “But we’re not going to look at that, we’re going to look at trying having the right amount of time to debate this in the thoughtful deliberate way that it deserves to be debated.”
“They’re using all the tools at their disposal, and they’ll be out of tools tomorrow and we’ll have a healthy debate,” Senate President Therese Murray told reporters as she rushed back to her office.
When asked if it would pass, she said, “We’ll see tomorrow.”
The House, which would need to offer a final, procedural approval on the legislation, has scheduled a formal session for Wednesday. So if the Senate does approve the bill tomorrow, the governor would likely be able to sign it on Wednesday and appoint a new senator by the end of the week.
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