Senate Vacancy Bill Moves Forward

The Connecticut Post’s Ken Dixon notes that the Senate Vacancy bill is moving forward in the Legislature.  The bill would strip the Governor’s office of the ability to appoint a replacement to the U.S. Senate in the event of a vacancy.

Republican State Senator Dan Debicella correctly noted the following:

“The truth of the matter is we do have elections for Senate vacancies,” said Sen. Dan Debicella, R-Shelton, ranking member of the committee.

Aside from the programmatic problem of further consolidating power with the supermajority at a time when most voters prefer balanced government, the bill presents a whole host of structural problems. 

As Sen. Debicella points out, it is an unnecessary expense.  We already have special elections for  U.S. Senators: they occur at the next regularly scheduled statewide election – never more than two years away – without the additional expense of organizing a statewide special election.

The bill would diminish Connecticut’s representation in the U.S. Senate by 50% for at least 150 days – stripping us of half our say over the important legislative matters considered in Washington. 

The Framers of the Constitution had this correct, rightly entrusting elected Governors with the ability to swiftly fill Senate vacancies.  Instead, the proponents of the bill have bottled “less representation” under the label “more democracy”.

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18 responses to “Senate Vacancy Bill Moves Forward

  1. further consolidating power with the supermajority

    That’s supposed to be a joke, right? The bill provides for voters to fill a vacant Senate seat in a special election, not the legislature. Are you saying that no Republican candidate would stand a chance in a statewide election?

    And I am guessing your plaintive worry that the bill “would diminish Connecticut’s representation in the U.S. Senate by 50% for at least 150 days” doesn’t apply to House seats, where a vacancy and special election already diminishes the affected district’s representation by – gasp – 100%?

  2. The joke is on you. The Legislature is stripping the Governor of her ability to swiftly fill a Senate vacancy. That’s a power grab if ever there was one.

    As to my “plaintive worry”, it seems to me that Connecticut’s representation would be reduced by – gasp – 20% during a House vacancy.

    If 20% of my co-ed softball team doesn’t show up for a game, we can spread out a bit and still cover the field. If 50% didn’t show up, we’d have to forfeit.

    Seems like roughly the same principle should apply to Connecticut’s representation in Congress.

  3. Aside from the programmatic problem of further consolidating power with the supermajority

    I don’t think that the word “consolidating” means what you think it does, Heath.

  4. Slightly off topic (though we are talking about the U.S. Senate here), I just wanted to welcome Senator Specter to the Democratic Party.

    Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

    Feel free to vote your conscience, sir — just help us get to cloture.

  5. Speaking of “vacant”.

    Specter’s gone over the edge.

    Good Bye Arlen

  6. Just another example of the fight or flight response.

    Who wants to go down fighting in defense of the Sarah Palin Party?

    Either way, it changes the political incentives in the Senate — and not just for Specter.

  7. Specter could be counted on to vote against the GOP pretty much on anything significant. No big loss. If there’s a good time to lose yet another D-bagger, this would be it.

    Let the Dems have their fillibuster-proof majority.

  8. I don’t really think the Senate vacancy bill is a great idea, but i do have to wonder…

    Had Democrats been able to win the governor’s mansion even once in the last generation, would they be so hot to pass this bill? I think the arguments about it being “democratic” are a bit dubious…

  9. Looks like Cafero has thrown his hat in the statewide ring officially (or not):
    http://www.explorecafero.com

  10. AndersonScooper

    Heath wrote: The joke is on you. The Legislature is stripping the Governor of her ability to swiftly fill a Senate vacancy. That’s a power grab if ever there was one.

    Will you Republicans ever stop whining?

    Yes, Connecticut will follow on the heels of New York and Alaska in giving the electorate the right to choose their U.S. Senators, even in the case of a sudden vacancy.

    And so we should. Certainly the Blagojevich fiasco should have made it apparently clear that democratic elections are the way to go.

  11. Clickety_Clak

    Scooper…don’t you mean “Democratic elections”?

  12. Personally, I’d love to see someone introduce a bill returning US Senate seats to the CT legislature – not the voters. I know it’d be DOA and seen as a power grab. But for discussion purposes (the repeal of 1913, including the privately controlled Federal Reserve BONY), I think it could be interesting.

    Yeah… that’d be a great bill for someone to introduce – Repeal 1913 (US Senate elections, the income tax & the Federal Reserve Corporation).

    I think I could support that bill.

  13. Massachusetts passed a bill like this in case Kerry won in 2004. (Romney would have been able to choose the replacement). Then in 2008, after Obama won, there was fear that Kennedy would resign for health reasons or that Kerry would be chosen for a cabinet job. Massachusetts had a Democratic governor, but there was fear that if either of these events happened, then Massachusetts would have only one senator until the special election. (There was talk of giving back the power to the governor).

    I think the best solution is for the leader of the party of the vacating Senator to submit a list of names, and for the governor to choose one. It is important to have representation in the Senate, and this ensures that the party doesn’t change.

    The last time a governor appointed someone to fill a Senate seat that involved a party switch was in Georgia in the early 1990s. the Republican senator died, and the governor chose Zell Miller as the replacement. That worked out great for the Democrats, didn’t it?

  14. The joke is on you. The Legislature is stripping the Governor of her ability to swiftly fill a Senate vacancy. That’s a power grab if ever there was one.

    Feel free to keep on calling the act of empowering voters to fill a Senate vacancy through a special election a “power grab.” It says more about what the CT GOP thinks of their chances in a statewide special election than anything else.

    If 20% of my co-ed softball team doesn’t show up for a game, we can spread out a bit and still cover the field. If 50% didn’t show up, we’d have to forfeit.

    So then I take it you support special elections for Senate seats in New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Rhode Island? Or oppose special elections for the House in those states?

  15. AndersonScooper

    Then in 2008, after Obama won, there was fear that Kennedy would resign for health reasons or that Kerry would be chosen for a cabinet job. Massachusetts had a Democratic governor, but there was fear that if either of these events happened, then Massachusetts would have only one senator until the special election. (There was talk of giving back the power to the governor).

    Could you share a source or citation for this? Because I think it’s a fabricated load…

  16. Could you share a source or citation for this? Because I think it’s a fabricated load…

    http://wbztv.com/local/john.kerry.secretary.2.856786.html

    “On Wednesday, Gov. Deval Patrick said he would consider changing state law so he could appoint someone to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat rather than having a special election. ”

    http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081117/NEWS/811170312/-1/TOWN1001

    BOSTON — President-elect Barack Obama’s historic win could trigger big changes in Massachusetts politics.

    Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., is on Obama’s short list to become secretary of state. If he leaves, the state could have its first contested election for a Senate seat in 24 years.

    A battle already is brewing on Beacon Hill whether Sen. Kerry’s replacement would be chosen by a special election, as required by state law, or whether the law will be changed to give Gov. Deval Patrick the power to appoint the next senator.

    Currently, 45 states allow their governor to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy until the next congressional election, which will be in 2010. Massachusetts used to be one of them.

    In 2004, when Sen. Kerry was the Democratic nominee for president, the Legislature changed the law to require a special election for U.S. Senate vacancies. The move was meant to block Republican Gov. Mitt Romney from appointing Sen. Kerry’s successor.

    Gov. Patrick says he is open to having appointment power, though he isn’t pushing for it. The Senate seat will draw the interest of numerous Democratic politicians.

    So Scoop, do you still think that my saying there was talk of giving this power back to the governor was a “fabricated load”?

  17. AndersonScooper

    No, thanks for the link.

    I stand corrected.

    And Patrick Deval’s actions are just more proof that a governor should not have the power to appoint a US Senate successor.

    I know you all can’t think a generation into the future. But what happens when Connecticut has a string of Democratic governors? (Imagine if we have Governor Chris Murphy, and Senator Rob Simmons were to croak mid-term.)

    fwiw.

    Maybe my problem is that I believe in democracy…

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