Race Against the Clock in Massachusetts
posted by Gerard Magliocca
The other day I pointed out that if Scott Brown(R) wins the Massachusetts Senate special election on Tuesday, that could unleash all sorts of constitutional mayhem. For example, Democrats could delay the seating of the new Republican Senator until the health care bill passes (post-conference) though both Houses. So I decided to look into state law to see what could happen.
First, the winner of Tuesday’s race will not be certified as the winner for a month–Feb. 20 is the target date. That’s because the counties have two weeks to report their results to the state, and there is extra time for the counting of overseas and military ballots.
Second, a recount (yipes!) is available if the margin of victory is within .5%. So if Brown were to win in a really close race, we could have another Al Franken/Norm Coleman situation, which would allow interim Senator Paul Kirk(D) to stay in DC for months.
Third, the Senate could delay the seating of a certified winner, though that would be really extraordinary. Still, if the majority had to do that for a few days, maybe that’s not so impossible to imagine.
Accordingly, if Brown wins and there is no recount, look for Democrats to step on the gas pedal and get the health care bill passed by Feb. 20 with a lame-duck vote from Massachusetts. That will probably get folks fired up and gives critics of the individual health care mandate an additional club to use if the Act is challenged in the courts.
UPDATE: I now see other articles stating that the certification process (assuming that there is no recount) will be done by Jan. 29. If that is true, then it’s hard to see how the bill could be passed before Brown takes his seat — if he wins.