A Boston Globe columnist is calling for Massachusetts' Senator Ted Kennedy to resign, following the ailing lawmakers request for a change in state law to allow Democratic Governor Deval Patrick to appoint an interim replacement to fill his seat in the event of a vacancy.
Kennedy's call is seen as controversial because he helped lobby for a change to the law in 2004- stripping then Republican Governor Mitt Romney of the power to appoint a replacement should Senator John Kerry have won the presidency.
The current law calls, instead, for a special election to be held between 145 and 160 days of a seat becoming open.
Kennedy maintains Massachusetts needs two voices and two votes in the Senate but, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby says if the senator really believes that he should make way for a successor.
"He's missed virtually every vote for the past 15 months, he's almost never in Washington anymore," Jacoby argues. "If he's concerned that Massachusetts not be left without two voices and two votes in the U.S. Senate, it's time for him, I think, to bring his career to a dignified end and announce his retirement and let his successor be chosen."
Massachusetts is a state dominated by Democrats and Kennedy loyalists are not hard to find. Jacoby says he expected a more impassioned response to his call for the senior Senator to step-down.
"There's a certain feeling among some people to even have talked about this is to tread where polite people don't tread," Jacoby says. "But, I have to say, I have not found the response to be especially angry or bitter or hostile. There hasn't been the kind of push back that I might have expected. I think even a lot of Kennedy supporters, fans and past voters don't want to see him end his career by clinging for dear life to a job he simply isn't able to do anymore."
The call for Kennedy to resignation will fall on "deaf ears," says Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh.
"If you look at the service that Ted Kennedy has given for over 40 years and everything he's done, I think it's the wrong thing to call for," Marsh says. "But again, everyone is entitled to their opinion. The reality is — the majority of the people in Massachusetts and the majority of voters want Ted Kennedy to stay in office and if he were to leave that office they want a replacement while they pick the next senator."
Kennedy's call to change state law has ignited a debate about political maneuvering at a time the Obama administration is grappling with a national health care reform initiative, fighting for support among legislators on Capitol Hill. At home in Massachusetts, state Republicans are focusing on what they call "blatant hypocrisy" — an effort to swing important votes before the people can participate in the democratic process.
Kennedy's request even got a tepid response from state Democrats, key lawmakers leery of angering the electorate. State Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo released a non-committal statement regarding Kennedy's request that said in part — "It is our hope that he will continue to be a voice for the people of Massachusetts as long as he is able."