The state Senate passed a bill this afternoon that would allow Governor Deval Patrick to name an interim successor to Edward M. Kennedy, potentially paving the way for appointment of a new US senator later this week.
The Senate approved the measure by a 24-to-16 vote, leaving one final procedural hurdle in both chambers before the bill heads to Patrick's desk. The House and Senate are expected to enact the bill on Wednesday, a formality unlikely to derail the effort.
Patrick has pushed for the bill and could sign it as early as Wednesday. Administration officials have been considering several possible appointees, but have declined to release the names out of concern that such a step could affect the legislative debate.
Among the names frequently mentioned by observers are Michael S. Dukakis, the former governor; Paul G. Kirk Jr., the former Democratic National Committee chairman and an aide to Kennedy; Charles J. Ogletree, Harvard Law School professor; and Evelyn Murphy, former lieutenant governor.
The vote this afternoon was delayed twice by parliamentary maneuvers by the Republican leader in the state Senate. Debate on the measure finally proceeded at 11:45 a.m. There were no protesters or supporters in the State House, but staffers for Senate President Therese Murray took the unusual step of blocking reporters from public areas of the building. Citing "safety issues," they set up a series of ropes, blocking a staircase and a hallway, and ordered members of the media to stand in designated areas.
When the roll call had been tallied, it appeared that many state senators had switched their votes from the last time the issue came up. In 2004, the Democrat-dominated Legislature rejected a measure that would have allowed Republican Governor Mitt Romney to appoint an interim successor if Senator John F. Kerry had won the presidency. The state Senate killed the measure with a voice vote, so it is difficult to pinpoint who changed votes.
Last week, the House voted 95-to-58 to approve the successor bill. In 2004, the chamber overwhelmingly rejected the same measure.
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