Boston Globe Writer Ignores Mass. Law on When Appointed Senator's Term Ends

Boston Globe writer Lisa Wangsness can't be blamed too much for assuming that appointed senator Paul Kirk's term ends when the winner of tomorrow's election in Massachusetts, Scott Brown (photo) or Martha Coakley, is seated. Wrong. Mass. law is very specific on that term limit as Fred Barnes has noted in the Weekly Standard. The reason why Wangsness can be forgiven for her error is that it is the same assumption made by most of the rest of the mainstream media. Here is the relevant section of her article about the effect of tomorrow's election on the health care bill:

Another possibility would be for Democrats to hurry and pass a compromise bill before Brown were seated.

It is not clear how much time Democrats would have in that case. Before the new Massachusetts senator takes office, Secretary of State William F. Galvin must certify the vote, and town clerks have to wait 10 days after the election to allow time for the ballots of military members serving overseas to arrive, then they have another five days to deliver the final results to Galvin, according to state election law. After that, the new senator can be sworn in.

This assumes that Paul Kirk would remain in the Senate to be the crucial 60th senator to vote to cut off debate. However, as Barnes has pointed out, Kirk's duties as a senator ends tomorrow:

Kirk has vowed to vote for the Democratic bill even if Republican Scott Brown is elected but not yet certified by state officials and officially seated in the Senate.  Kirk’s vote is crucial because without the 60 votes necessary to stop a Republican filibuster, the bill will be defeated.

This would be a devastating loss for President Obama and congressional Democrats.  The bill, dubbed ObamaCare, is the centerpiece of the president’s agenda.  Brown has campaigned on becoming the 41st vote against ObamaCare.

But in the days after the election, it is Kirk’s status that matters, not Brown’s.  Massachusetts law says that an appointed senator remains in office “until election and qualification of the person duly elected to fill the vacancy.”  The vacancy occurred when Senator Edward Kennedy died in August.  Kirk was picked as interim senator by Governor Deval Patrick.

Democrats in Massachusetts have talked about delaying Brown’s “certification,” should he defeat Democrat Martha Coakley on Tuesday.  Their aim would be to allow Kirk to remain in the Senate and vote the health care bill.

But based on Massachusetts law, Senate precedent, and the U.S. Constitution, Republican attorneys said Kirk will no longer be a senator after election day, period.  Brown meets the age, citizenship, and residency requirements in the Constitution to qualify for the Senate.  “Qualification” does not require state “certification,” the lawyers said.

So take notes Lisa and the rest of you folks in the MSM. This legal information will appear in your Blue Book exams and double checked against any articles you write on this subject in the future. It might be a while until the next senator from Massachusetts is certified but according to state law, Kirk must be beamed up from the U.S. Senate after tomorrow. His term ends. His role will be over. And gone will be his 60th vote to stop a Senate filibuster no matter how long Bay State officials drag their feet on certifying the election.

2010 Congressional Boston Globe Scott Brown Martha Coakley Paul Kirk
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