The Massachusetts Legislature has paved the way for Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint an interim U.S. senator to fill the seat left vacant when Sen. Edward Kennedy died last month. The state Senate approved a bill on Tuesday allowing Patrick to make the appointment until a special election can be held on Jan. 19. The House passed a similar measure last week.
Aware that he was dying, Kennedy had asked that Patrick be given the authority to make the appointment, which could play a key role in the ensuring that a health-care bill gets through Congress. The seat would give the Democrats the 60 votes needed to beat back a Republican filibuster.
While Patrick has not identified potential appointees, those believed to be under consideration are former Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis; former Kennedy aide and chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston Paul G. Kirk Jr.; Evelyn Murphy, a former lieutenant governor; and Charles Ogletree, a renowned African-American professor at Harvard Law School.