Publisher's Note:

One of the most significant things you can do to promote Liberty is to support our efforts. Please make your gift to the 2020 Year-End Campaign today. Thank you! —Mark Alexander, Publisher

Jeff Jacoby / Nov. 19, 2020

'Whatever Helps Democrats the Most'

If Warren leaves the Senate, the Legislature will see to it that a Democrat replaces her.

Massachusetts politicos spend an inordinate amount of time speculating about what will happen if Elizabeth Warren leaves the Senate to take another position. The subject came up in 2019 during Warren’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination; it resurfaced earlier this year when she was angling to be Joe Biden’s running mate. Now, with the Bay State’s senior senator being bruited for Treasury secretary in the next administration, the topic is alive again.

If Warren resigns her Senate seat, Massachusetts law authorizes Governor Charlie Baker to appoint an interim senator pending a special election. But Baker’s a Republican, and Democrats break out in hives at the thought of even a temporary Republican senator. One of those Democrats, state Representative Mindy Domb of Amherst, last week proposed amending the law to require that any vacancy be filled by an appointee “of the same political party as the person vacating the office.”

That provoked Baker into issuing a rare veto threat. Asked about Domb’s amendment, the governor called it an example of the “situational dynamics around this stuff when it comes to process associated with elections.” That’s Baker-ese for “political parties brazenly changing the rules whenever it will benefit them.” Such brazenness has emerged as a specialty on Beacon Hill, where, as the Boston Globe reported in 2016, “the basic rule for filling vacancies seems to [be] something like: ‘whatever helps Democrats the most.’”

For a long time, Massachusetts Democrats were content with the system established in 1913, when the 17th Amendment, providing for the direct election of senators, was added to the Constitution. In the event of a Senate vacancy, state law empowered the governor to appoint a replacement who would serve until the next statewide election. When John F. Kennedy resigned from the Senate after winning the 1960 presidential election, for example, Governor Foster Furcolo selected Kennedy’s Harvard roommate, Benjamin Smith, to keep the seat warm until the 1962 election. By then, JFK’s kid brother, Teddy, was old enough to run for the Senate.

But in 2004, things changed. Senator John Kerry was running for president, and Republican Mitt Romney was in the governor’s office. If Kerry were to win, Romney would get to appoint a new senator to serve until the next general election.

So Ted Kennedy — by then the longest-serving senator in Massachusetts history — lobbied the Legislature to change the law and strip away the governor’s traditional power to fill vacancies.

Democrats gleefully did so. At the final vote, the Boston Globe reported, “hooting and hollering broke out on the usually staid House floor,” as House Speaker Thomas Finneran smirked: “It’s a political deal. It’s very raw politics.”

Five years later, Democrats engineered more “raw politics” — again at Kennedy’s urging.

During his final illness, knowing his own seat would soon be vacant, Kennedy encouraged Massachusetts lawmakers to overturn the 2004 law, and restore the authority of the governor — Democrat Deval Patrick — to pick his successor. The Legislature readily complied. After Kennedy’s death, Patrick appointed an old Kennedy loyalist, Paul Kirk, to hold the seat until a special election could be held. And when Kerry left the Senate to become secretary of state in January 2013, Patrick likewise picked his successor — another Democratic stalwart, Mo Cowan.

But now that the governor’s office is once more occupied by a Republican, Democrats are itching to change the law yet again.

Domb didn’t bother to pretend that her proposal to force Baker to replace Warren with a Democrat had any motive other than sheer partisanship. She wanted to protect the “balance of power in the US Senate,” she said, and to protect the “rock stars” of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, who “all happen to be Democrats.”

Her amendment has been shelved for now, but everyone knows Democrats are ready to turn on a dime if Warren is tapped for Biden’s cabinet. “It’s a little early to get in front of that at the moment,” the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, Boston Democrat Aaron Michlewitz, serenely told Sate House reporters last week. But “it’s a conversation that we are all willing to have.”

No doubt about that. If Warren leaves the Senate, the Legislature will see to it that a Democrat replaces her. Changing laws for partisan advantage may be disreputable, but when has that ever troubled Beacon Hill?

(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2020 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.