The gubernatorial Senate?

John Hanlon

9/2/2009 7:00:00 AM - John Hanlon
With the recent death of Senator Ted Kennedy, many are debating whether or not the Massachusetts legislature should give Governor Deval Patrick the opportunity to appoint someone temporarily to fill Kennedy's position. Kennedy was against the governor being able to make such an appointment in 2004 but he supported the idea earlier this year. Now that the Senate seat is vacant though, there does seem to be some momentum behind changing the law in Massachusetts, partly because of the important health care debate on Capitol Hill and partly because of Patrick's recent advocacy for this change in the law.

Interestingly enough, a recent Washington Post editorial noted how much of a role gubernatorial appointments have had in the Senate in 2009. With at least one new gubernatorial appointment expected soon (in Texas), the Post noted that "you get 26.6 percent of Americans represented by a senator for whom no one voted. If Massachusetts is added to that roster, the proportion bumps up to 28.7 percent. This is undemocratic and shouldn't continue." With the importance of upcoming legislation in the Senate, 28.7 is a huge percentage of the population who are represented by a Senator they did not even vote for.

From New York to Florida to Illinois to Delaware, voters are being represented in the Senate by an appointed official, not an elected representative. 

Although some gubernatorial appointments are to be expected, especially because of a new administration in Washington that has asked several Senators to take roles in that administration, such appointments are now playing a major role in the Senate that could be voting on liberal health care reform this fall. It is unclear whether or not a temporary successor will be chosen for Kennedy in Massachusetts before the special election is held. What is abudantly clear, though, is the large role that governors have (for better or for worse) played in deciding the current composition of the United States Senate at a time when major issues like health care reform and energy legislation are being debated and discussed.