Kennedy successor joins Senate, takes up health reform battle
Former Democratic Party Chairman Paul Kirk has a few months in his new job to help accomplish what his friend, the late Senator Edward Kennedy, devoted much of his life to: Trying to provide affordable healthcare to all Americans.
Kirk was sworn in on Friday to take the Senate seat held for 47 years by Kennedy, his party’s liberal lion and leading advocate for healthcare reform.
This could be critical in a pending Senate floor fight over efforts to expand healthcare, which Kennedy had called “the cause of my life.”
Kirk was sworn in a day after Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick named him as Kennedy’s temporary successor until voters elect a new senator in January.
Kirk took the oath just hours after a judge in Massachusetts rejected a request by Republicans for an injunction to prevent him from taking office.
Kirk was administered the oath in the Senate by Vice President Joe Biden.
“Congratulations senator,” Biden told a smiling Kirk after he officially joined the Senate, often referred to as “the world’s most exclusive club and deliberative body.”
Kirk shook hands and exchanged hugs with a number of lawmakers, including Kennedy’s son, Patrick, a member of the House of Representatives who came to the Senate to witnesses the swearing in of his father’s successor.
Kirk, who served as Democratic Party chairman from 1985 until 1989, is seen as a somewhat of a natural to take over the Senate seat.
An eloquent speaker who was master of ceremonies at a memorial service for Kennedy last month, he has in-depth knowledge of Washington politics.
Kirk also supports Democratic efforts backed by President Barack Obama to overhaul the nation’s $2.5 trillion healthcare system.