As CBS chief political correspondent Steve Chaggaris reports, Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick must set a date for a special election to occur between 145 and 160 days from now to fill the vacancy created by Kennedy's death. The two likely dates for a special election would be on the Tuesdays that fall within this range: January 19, 2010 and January 26, 2010.
Thanks to a law change in 2004, Gov. Patrick is not allowed to appoint a temporary replacement, meaning that seat will be vacant until the special election.
Last week, Sen. Kennedy sent a letter urging Patrick and the state legislature to amend that law change to allow for the governor to appoint someone for that interim period, someone who would not be allowed to run in the special election.
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The Boston Globe reported over the weekend that the state Senate president, a Democrat, has changed her mind on opposing this idea and has been working to drum up support for that measure.
The state legislature is on recess until Labor Day, so no action is expected before then.
In his letter, Kennedy wrote: "it is vital for this commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election."
While Democrats hold a potentially filibuster-proof margin in Congress, the outcome of a health care reform bill could hinge on a single vote.
In his letter, Kennedy suggested the governor ensure the fairness of any appointment to replace him by seeking an "explicit personal commitment" his appointee will not seek the position on a permanent basis.