The Senate's oldest member is about to be replaced with its youngest.
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin just made it official: He's appointing one of his former aides, Carte Goodwin, 36, to take the seat that the late Robert Byrd occupied for more than a half-century in the U.S. Senate -- but only temporarily.
The West Virginia legislature is debating a bill that would setting up a special election to fill the remainder of Byrd's term, which ends in 2012. That bill, once passed,will trigger a potentially competitive race if Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the GOP's best hope, decides to take on Democrat Manchin.
Byrd, the longest-serving member of Congress, was also the Senate's oldest member when died last month at the age of 92. Goodwin will become the Senate's youngest member, a title currently held by Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla. LeMieux is 41.
Goodwin's appointment will give Democrats a boost in the Senate: Byrd's death has made it difficult for Senate Democrats to obtain the 60 votes necessary to pass legislation, including much-needed unemployment benefits.
Update, 3:23 p.m. ET: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says Goodwin will be sworn in Tuesday. Reid said he's anxious to "move forward on many important policies to help middle-class families, including creating jobs, extending unemployment insurance and strengthening small businesses."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is already welcoming his new colleague-to-be. In a statement from his office, Rockefeller says Goodwin "is unquestionably among West Virginia's best and brightest." Rockefeller should know: Goodwin's wife, Rochelle, works for the senator.
Goodwin has been in private practice since leaving the governor's office. He is a graduate of Marietta College and earned his law degree at Emory University. He's from a big West Virginia political family:
- His late father, Steve, was a prominent Charleston lawyer and member of the West Virginia University board of trustees;
- His uncle, Joseph R. "Joe Bob" Goodwin, is a federal judge in Charleston.
- His aunt, the judge's wife, is Kay Goodwin, West Virginia's Secretary of Education and the Arts-- meaning she's a member of Manchin's cabinet.
- Goodwin's cousin, Booth, was just named U.S. attorney for the southern district of West Virginia.
And, according to The Hill newspaper, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tried unsuccessfully to lure soon-to-be Sen. Goodwin into running for Congress this year -- against Capito.
West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw recently ruled that the state could hold a special election to fill the vacancy, saying state law was unclear on the point. He said state officials had to interpret the U.S. Constitution in this case and "the people's right to vote." The state legislature this week also upheld McGraw's ruling, clearing the way for Manchin to make the interim appointment and to call the special election for November.
Comment: Once again we see how the 17th Amendment has done nothing to prevent cronyism and backroom dealings. Had the 17th not been enacted the West Virginia state legislative body would have elected the most qualified person to the seat from their body. Certainly politics would be involved but the candidate would have had significant legislative experience and would have been well versed in the views of West Virgina, unlike Manchin's choice of Johnny Upstart.