Politics Digest

Politics Digest: Massachusetts Takes Step Toward Replacing Kennedy

An elevated white-blood-cell count is keeping Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) in a hospital, his office said.
An elevated white-blood-cell count is keeping Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) in a hospital, his office said. (By Susan Walsh -- Associated Press)
Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Mass. Senate Approves Bill For Interim Replacement

The Massachusetts Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) to name an interim replacement for the late senator Edward M. Kennedy. The measure still needs procedural votes Wednesday from the Senate and the state House before it goes to Patrick, who has said he will sign it.

Patrick's aides said they expect him to act quickly to name an interim successor, and speculation is heating up about who the short-time senator -- who would serve until voters pick a permanent replacement in January -- might be.

Two names that regularly come up in conversations with plugged-in Bay State operatives are former Democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis and Kennedy aide Paul Kirk.

According to a source close to the deliberations, Dukakis is working hard to win the appointment as a sort of career capper. His quiet campaign for the seat got a major boost Tuesday when the Boston Globe's editorial page declared him to be the best choice for the appointment.

However, some in Massachusetts say Dukakis's high profile is not what Patrick and the state legislature are aiming for.

Kirk, who served as special assistant to Kennedy during much of the 1970s and went on to chair the Democratic National Committee in the 1980s, currently serves as the chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation board of directors.

-- Chris Cillizza


91-Year-Old Senator Hospitalized After Fall

Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) will be hospitalized for at least a few days after a fall at his Northern Virginia home.

The senator's office said that Byrd may have fallen as a result of standing up too quickly and that doctors checked him out afterward. "While having no broken bones or bruises, upon examination, doctors found an elevated white-blood cell count which can be an early sign of an infection," Byrd's office said in a statement. "Therefore, his doctors have determined that Byrd should remain in the hospital for antibiotic treatment and observation. Senator Byrd is in good spirits and expressed his disappointment that he was unable to join all his Senate colleagues this afternoon for the biennial Senate photo."

Byrd, 91, is the longest-serving senator in history and has been plagued by health problems in recent years. Earlier this year he was hospitalized for several weeks with an unspecified fever and then a staph infection. During that stint, his staff provided few updates and little information about his condition, even declining -- as was the case Tuesday -- to release the name of the hospital.

Since he was released from that hospital stay in June, Byrd has been present for only a handful of votes in the Senate, though he did register "aye" votes for the transportation appropriations bill and a couple of other measures Thursday. He also showed up in August to vote in favor of Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court. And Byrd appeared on the Senate floor earlier this month to pay an emotional tribute to his close friend, the late senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

-- Ben Pershing


With Eyes on 2012 Race, Governor Launches PAC

In the latest sign that he is preparing to run for president in 2012, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is launching a political action committee that will allow him to donate to state and federal candidates and travel the country in support of his party.

The Freedom First PAC is slated to hold its first official event Nov. 4, according to a save-the-date e-mail being circulated among Republican activists.

"When the governor said he wouldn't seek reelection, he said in addition to finishing his term strong, he would help other Republican candidates, and obviously a PAC is one key way to do that," said Alex Conant, an unofficial adviser to Pawlenty.

In the past few months, Pawlenty has worked aggressively to introduce himself to potential 2012 Republican primary voters. He has visited or will visit by the end of the month a number of battleground states, including Florida and Ohio, and he drew considerable media coverage for his speech last week at the Values Voters Summit in Washington.

Pawlenty's expected rivals for the 2012 nomination already have PACs up and operational.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has collected $2.3 million for his Free and Strong America committee this year. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin closed June with $732,000 raised via her SarahPAC, while former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee collected $305,000 through his Huck PAC in the first six months of the year.

-- Chris Cillizza

© 2009 The Washington Post Company