Teddy's Replacement Coming Soon
The Massachusetts State Senate just passed the bill allowing for a temporary appointment to the US Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy. The Governor will sign and the Democrats will be back to 60 seats perhaps by the end of the week.
This is probably the best practice for Senate vacancies - a temporary appointment because of the disproportionate impact of losing one Senator out of 100, followed by a quick election within a few months. It ought to be the standard.
Most speculation on the seat has centered on former Governor Michael Dukakis, or someone with ties to the Kennedy family or Teddy himself, like a former staffer. At any rate, that vote will certainly be fairly Democratic.
Obviously this raises the possibility of demanding Democratic unity on allowing a final vote on health care to go forward, even if they don't approve of the final bill. There's the matter of Robert Byrd (who ought to resign and live the rest of his life in peace), but essentially, Democrats will have the votes to block a filibuster if they hang together. And if Harry Reid cannot figure out how to enable a vote the the overwhelming majority of his caucus supports, then he doesn't have any power whatsoever. Reid is still raising the possibility of reconciliation, but that's a bluff for Republicans. It's the Democrats in his own chamber who need the nudge, although perhaps reconciliation is a warning to them as well.