Inouye replacement to be named Wednesday

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are greeted by Gov. Neil Abercrombie as they walk off Air Force One at Joint Base Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 11, 2011.
JIM WATSON / AFP / Getty Images

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, will announce Wednesday who he is appointing to late Sen. Daniel Inouye's vacant seat, a Democratic source tells CBS News.

A few days ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urged Abercrombie to appoint a successor "with due haste," because Democrats want to have a full roster for critical fiscal cliff votes coming up as soon as Friday. When Inouye's successor is sworn in, Democrats will hold a 53-47 edge in the Senate through the end of the year.

Inouye, a Democrat who served as Hawaii senator since 1963, died last week.

Today is the deadline for Hawaii Democrats with an interest in the position to file a letter with the state party. So far, at least a dozen people have expressed an interest, including Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, Rep.-elect Tulsi Gabbard, former Rep. Ed Case, and a few state senators.

On Wednesday morning, each of the applicants will deliver a two-minute speech to members of the state Democratic Party, explaining why they want the position. By midday, the chair of the party will give Abercrombie a list of the party's three top choices. Hanabusa and Schatz are considered virtual locks for two of the three spots. The third is a toss-up.

Then, Wednesday afternoon, Abercrombie will make his choice and announce it, so that Inouye's successor can head straight to Washington, D.C. to be sworn in and available for "fiscal cliff" votes. It's even possible that the successor could hitch a ride with President Obama on Air Force One, since Mr. Obama could be flying back as early as Wednesday from his Hawaiian holiday vacation to get back to the White House to deal with the "fiscal cliff".

The appointed senator would serve a term of two years, and then have to run in a special election in 2014.

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.