U.S. Senate: Kirk to Replace Edward M. Kennedy

According to Democratic aides briefed on the decision, the governor of Massachusetts has picked Paul G. Kirk Jr., former Democratic national chairman, to temporarily replace the late Edward M. Kennedy in the U.S. Senate.

The appointment by Gov. Deval Patrick will let Kirk, who was close friends with the senator, serve in the post until voters pick a permanent replacement in a Jan. 19 special election. It also gives President Barack Obama a critical 60th U.S. Senate vote he needs to pass his top legislative priority, a health care overhaul.

"He is intimately knowledgeable and supportive of the work that Sen. Kennedy was doing," said one of the aides, who, like the others, requested anonymity in advance of the official announcement. "He can start right away on that work. It's an opportunity in a short period of time to try to complete some of the work Sen. Kennedy has been working his whole life on," The Associated Press reports.

Kirk's appointment restores Democrats to 60 seats -- a filibuster proof majority in the Senate although Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-W.Va.) recent hospitalization complicates that math.

Kirk is the sixth Senator appointed to the chamber this year joining Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), George Lemieux (R-Fla.), Ronald Burris (D-Ill.), Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
Kirk will serve until early next year. A Jan. 19 special election has been set to determine who will fill the remaining years on Kennedy's term, The Washington Post reports.

“Paul Kirk cares enormously about our state, and that’s why he’s been such a trusted friend to the Kennedy family and to me,’’ Senator John F. Kerry said yesterday. “But this is the governor’s decision now, just as it’s the people's choice in January, and I’m not engaging in the speculation game.’’

It was also reported, the late senator's widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, told the governor that she preferred Kirk, according to a Kennedy family associate. Kennedy’s two sons, US Representative Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island and Edward M. Kennedy Jr., have also told Patrick that Kirk is their first choice, Boston Globe reports.

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