High Stakes

Who Will Succeed Kennedy?

Ted Kennedy's death ironically imperils one of the causes he most aggressively championed during his life: health-care reform. Democrats and Republicans alike have noted that his absence has made negotiations over a deal more difficult, but his vote in breaking a filibuster could have been even more crucial. Now state legislators in Massachusetts are grappling with how to replace him. A 2004 law crafted to keep Republican Gov. Mitt Romney from appointing a senator if John Kerry won the election calls for a special election several weeks after the vacancy opens, but in his final days Kennedy wrote to lawmakers asking them to change the rules to appoint a temporary senator so the state was represented in the health-care vote if he died. "It is vital for this Commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate," he wrote. But given that the law was modified so recently already and the blatant political reasons for both proposed changes, legislators may be hesitant to follow Kennedy's final request. Already Massachusetts Republicans are decrying the plan. "The hypocrisy is astounding," the state's house minority leader, Bradley Jones Jr., told the Boston Globe Thursday. Possible successors for Kennedy include his wife, Vicki Kennedy, and nephew, Joseph Kennedy II.