Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hillary Clinton's replacement in the US Senate

Governor David Paterson (D-NY) this week appointed Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand ("D"-NY) as the replacement for ex-Senator Clinton.  Gillibrand is a Blue Dog Dem - she opposed the bank bailout last year and was actually endorsed by the NRA over her Republican opponent.  But she's also apparently pro-choice, and supports stem-cell research.  On LGBT issues, she was initially only in favor of civil unions and voted against allowing same-sex partners of US citizens/permanent residents the same immigration status as married heterosexual couples, but now apparently supports same-sex marriage. [Wiki]
Fortunately or unfortunately, this left Caroline Kennedy out in the cold.  Though she withdrew earlier in the week citing personal reasons, I think it is likely she figured out the writing on the wall and decided to exit as gracefully as she could.  If Paterson wanted Kennedy, he could have announced her appointment weeks ago.
A point Maureen Dowd makes in her NYT column struck me - Gillibrand's appointment means President Obama's economic stimulus package faces a tougher road in the Senate.  In the House, the package can pass without significant Republican support if required.  However, the Democrats do not have a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate, and in any case, with Democratic Senators like Gillibrand and wackjob "independent Democrat" Lieberman, the Democrats may not vote 100% for the economic stimulus plan.

I wonder if Governor Paterson, in appointing a woman from upstate NY to help himself get elected, has cost President Obama his [Obama's] first big achievement.  Probably not (1), but Paterson hasn't helped Obama, that's for sure.

(1) Some might point to President Obama's executive order closing Gitmo within a year, but (a) Gitmo is still open; and (b) as MSNBC's FirstRead and the NYT (via FR) (among others) point out, will certain "special interrogation techniques" be retained and even written into the Army field manual, even as the President pledges not to torture?

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