Convenient: MA Sen winner may get delay in seating

Posted on January 13, 2010

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The Associated Press and the Boston Herald have reported that Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Glavin is hinting that there will probably be a delay in certifying a winner for his state’s Senate seat in a tightening special election between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley. Glavin says state law indicates that city and town clerks are required to wait 10 days before absentee ballots can be certified, and an additional 5 days can elapse before the returns must be filed with his office.

It all raises suspicions that election laws are being used to game the system somewhat. Glavin bypassed the law in 2007 when Democrats needed another House of Representatives vote to override a veto by President George W. Bush. Glavin is now claiming quite innocently that the Senate requires a certification before a candidate can be seated, which can’t happen until the proscribed time period elapses.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Massachusetts Democrats changed the law when Mitt Romney was governor to preclude him from naming an interim Senator, then changed it back so the current Democratic governor could name one when Ted Kennedy died. So you’ll have to forgive me if I’m just a tad skeptical that all of this is simply upholding state electoral laws.

The real reason has to do with delaying for as long as possible a potential Republican winner from gumming up the works on a health care bill. Scott Brown has said he opposes the current bill, current interim Senator Paul Kirk supports it no matter what, so if Brown somehow squeaks out a win in Massachusetts (still a long shot, but very possible), it will be interesting to see if the Senate shoehorns in crucial votes in that 10-15 day period so their 60-vote majority remains intact.

People are citing the Minnesota Senate race as a valid pretense for the current threat of delay. The circumstances are potentially very different – the Minnesota race was razor-thin close, only a few hundred votes, and legal challenges were being worked out in the courts. A delay in Massachusetts after a victory by a few points wouldn’t be to make sure the right winner was certified (a valid reason for delay) but a stalling move so Washington Democrats could enact more of their agenda unimpeded.

If Coakley wins, it’s all a moot point, but if Brown can pull it out (which nervous Democrats seem to think is a growing possibility) then he ought to be seated as soon as the law allows. The 10 day window sounds firm and nonnegotiable, but anything beyond that would be an unnecessary delay. And if the Senate just happens to schedule cloture votes during that time period, it’ll be the final sign that all hope of transparency and legislative responsibility have been thrown out the window.

Of course, you would think that if a Republican wins in Massachusetts, Democrats in Washington would take the hint that what they’re doing isn’t very popular. But they’ve got their rose-tinted agenda-framed “history-making” glasses on now, the electorate be damned.

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Posted in: News, Politics