Kennedy successor joins Senate, takes up health reform battle

September 25, 2009

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.

KENNEDY-SEAT/The ascension of Kirk again gives Democrats, provided they stick together, the 60 votes needed in the 100-member Senate to clear Republican procedural roadblocks.

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.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Hyungwon Kang (Kirk takes oath of office from Biden)


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What a joke. Democrats change the rules when they think they’ll lose a seat, then change them back when they need one.

Posted by R. Nicholas | Report as abusive

Even though this is a travesty that the MA legislature can change the rules because a sitting governor is a republican just to change the rules back when a democrat is running the state, the 60 vote majority in the US Senate is not a reality when it comes to health care (or any other vote…but I am sticking with health care for the moment…).

There are two independents in the senate. Senator Leiberman already said he is not in agreement that the health care debate should happen now with the economy in its current condition, so he may vote “no”. Senator Byrd is sick and usually absent from votes, so that leaves the majority at around 57. There are several “blue dog” democrats who are clearly against the health care plan. Let’s say it is about 50 votes for and 50 against at this juncture. Clearly it isn’t enough to stop debate.

I know there is the threat of “reconciliation”, but I have my doubts the senate will actually use that measure. It will be a death knell for them to use it. It is clearly an abuse of power if they do and they will pay for it dearly in the next election. Health care will fundamentally change our economy (for the worse…as well as horrible care…) and using reconciliation when the clear majority of Americans are against any plan mucking through congress will enrage the people.

The march in DC on 9/12 was the largest ever in our nations capital. The politicians took notice, even if the media ignored and lied about it.

So, the US congress and the president better watch their step before “forcing” their agenda on all of us…

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

I find it interesting that people are screaming that “reconciliation” is an abuse of power for this administration. Lets go back to the Bush administration:

– The 2001 Bush Tax Cuts [HR 1836, 3/26/01]
– The 2003 Bush Tax Cuts [HR 2, 3/23/03]
– Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 [HR 4297, 5/11/06]
– The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 [H. Con Res. 95, 12/21/05]

All of the above were passed using the same reconciliation. Want to talk about abuse of power now? Shall we talk about other abuses?

Posted by Susan Cass | Report as abusive

Health Care is going to affect 1/6th of the economy and will be required by every single American and will never expire. It should not be passed with a simple majority vote of 51. BTW, the senate knows it too and know the backlash that will occur.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

The march in DC on 9/12 was not the largest ever in our nations capital, and those who are repeating this lie know it. No one took notice, even when the media promoted and lied about it, going as far as publishing a five year old photograph of the National Mall taken during a completely different event to give the impression that it was well atended. It wasn’t even half the size of the march on October 27,2002, in protest of Bush’s war on Iraq, and those people didn’t have Freedomworks providing free transportation to Washington for the protestors.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

getplaning. You are too funny. You make up a lie because you can’t get over the truth. The DC police who witness and work the marches said it was the largest demonstration ever in the capital mall. Nice try.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

They never said that, TC. You live in a fantasy world, or you are just willing to lie about anything. The DC Fire Dept calls it at 60,000 to 75,000, tops. Fox News reported “thousands” of protesters. ABC News reported “tens of thousands.” The Wall Street Journal reported “Thousands of conservative activists.”

I guess we now know where you get your news, TC.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

getplaning. Really. You have no idea what you are talking about. Nice try. I know you will keep trying. I know all the headlines from the from ABC and Wall Street Journal. Also, I know you hold tight to the “generalizations” the present.

It was by far the largest march in DC, ever. Up to 2,000,000 people. But even if it was a mere 750,000 then that is quite contrary to those news media outlets that insisted on a few people would show up.

It doesn’t matter what you “think”, the truth is the people of this nation are PO’d at what is going on and time will prove me right. Likely at the next elections. The first start in Nov 2009 for some governors races.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive