By Matt Viser, Globe Staff
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 24-16 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 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.
UPDATE: Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts applauded the Senate vote.
“The state Senate joined the House today in doing the right thing for Massachusetts and all should be proud of the leadership of Senate President Murray and Speaker DeLeo in giving our delegation in Washington the strongest possible hand for these next few months before Massachusetts voters choose a senator for the long haul,” Kerry said in a statement. “This vote appropriately came down to a simple question: do you believe the people of Massachusetts are best served these next months by having one senator or two? The legislature answered that question correctly.
“Now Massachusetts will have two voices and two votes in the Senate until a new senator is elected. In 2004, reform ensured that Massachusetts voters would make the choice about filling any senate vacancies, and today's vote gives the people a voice in the senate until they exercise that choice. This is what Ted Kennedy wanted, what Governor Patrick and I wanted, and I firmly believe it's what people in Massachusetts want because big votes on everything from health care to climate change are being taken now, not in five months."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.