United States Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) commented on his position in the Senate after a bill was recently passed in the Kentucky state legislature regarding appointments to vacant Senate seats.
The bill, SB 228, requires the Kentucky governor to fill an empty seat in the Senate with a person from the same political party from the departing senator. It also makes it so that the governor must select a successor from a list of three people given to the governor by the executive committee of the same party of the departing lawmaker.
The Louisville Courier Journal reported,
SB 228 also includes fresh stipulations about how long the governor’s appointment to the Senate can last before voters get to elect someone to take over that seat — which depend largely on when the vacancy happens — as well as new rules about how such elections would work.
Kentucky hasn’t had a Democratic senator since January 1999, when former Sen. Wendell Ford retired. And with the state’s increasingly conservative electorate, SB 228 is designed to ensure the governor can’t appoint a Democrat to what’s likely to be a safe seat for Republicans.
Democratic Governor Andy Beshear vetoed SB 228 in early March, saying that it goes against the U.S. Constitution’s 17th Amendment, according to local reporting by the Lexington Herald Leader. Beshear said one of the goals of that amendment was to take away “power from political party bosses.”
“Senate Bill 228 violates that very purpose of the amendment by returning the power, specifically in law, to a political party to come up with names for a vacancy,” Beshear said.
On Monday, the Republican-controlled state legislature overrode the previous veto of the bill. McConnell reportedly supported the bill, which raised speculation for some regarding his future plans and whether or not he will remain in the Senate and serve out his term. McConnell spoke to the press in Kentucky on Tuesday, saying that the bill is similar to one in Wyoming.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a vacancy. I’m not going anywhere. I just got elected to a six-year term. And I’m still the leader of my party in the Senate, so this is a hypothetical,” McConnell said. “But I had watched this over the years in the Senate as various vacancies were filled and I thought this was the best way to go.”
McConnell said that after a vacancy is filled by a person of the same party, honoring the people’s choice in the last election, the next step is to “as rapidly as possible let the people decide rather than the governor.”
Referencing the former Republican Governor of Kentucky, McConnell said “I can assure you … I would have supported this had the governor been Matt Bevin. I think it’s a good idea for the people to elect the senator.”
“The goal here, that I support … was if such a vacancy were to occur to have the people as quickly as possible elect the new senator. And in the interim, honor the results of the last election,” McConnell said.
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