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Manchin Holding Off on Picking Interim Byrd Replacement

July 9, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The two big items in the Senate right now — the unemployment insurance extension and the financial reform bill — are basically on hold until West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin appoints an interim replacement for the late Sen. Robert Byrd [D, WV]. The Democrats need a senator voting from Byrd’s seat in order to reach the 60 votes they need to break Republican-led filibusters of these measures.

But it’s sounding like the Dems will not have a replacement for Byrd when they come back next week. This afternoon on MSNBC, Gov. Manchin said that he will wait until after a special session of the West Virginia state legislature clarifies the law in regards to the next election to fill Byrd’s seat before he appoints an interim replacement. Transcript and video are below.

Savannah Guthrie: I guess my first question is, when do you anticipate you’ll make a decision about an interim replacement, prior top the special election, who will cast some pretty key votes?

WV Gov. Joe Manchin: Right. What we have right now is an opinion from our chief legal officer, the Attorney General, that says we will have an election as quickly as possible, with the next general election being on November 2. So we’re going to have that election probably November 2, though our chief election officer, the Secretary of State, has a widely differing opinion on the matter. She believes that I should not have an election until 2012. And I’ve talked to all the legal scholars, we need to have the legislature come back in and clarify this as quickly as possible, which, hopefully, we can get the legislative leaders together and do that. With that — it’s possible by next week or the week after that, or a week and a half — a direction that the legislature has clarified it, and I’ll make an appointment.

Chuck Todd: Well, Governor, I was just going to say, so you are going to wait until — because I understand you have a special state legislative session coming up — you are going to wait until they decide  what to do, whether you hold this special election in November of this year or November 2012, before making an interim appointment? So, next week, when the Senate comes back into session, there will only be one senator from the state of West Virginia?

Manchin: Chuck, there’s a possibility that might be the case. If you know anything about Senator Byrd, he was a stickler for the Constitution. He’ll want us to do it and do it right. So I want to make sure if we have any legal ramifications, I’m not putting someone in under the cloud of a legal dispute. So we’ll have all that cleared up, hopefully by Monday or Tuesday, and then we’ll go from there.

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