America, you'll officially have a new Secretary of State within 24 hours. Who the heck is going to be your next Senator from Massachusetts — and the next one after that — remains as confusing as can be. Let's catch up on how the end of the Hillary era at Foggy Bottom might unfold, and fast.
After sailing through his confirmation-hearing lovefest last week and a committee vote Tuesday morning, John Kerry was confirmed late Tuesday afternoon by an overwhelming full Senate vote of 94-3. He'll be sworn in on Wednesday to officially replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spent last week defending her department's handling of the September attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and who will step aside — apparently to write a book.
Altogether, the transition in Washington should be smooth: Kerry, the current head of the Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations, has been swinging by the State Department's offices in Foggy Bottom since Obama issued his nomination, and is already planning trips to the Middle East, where he'll visit with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
But isn't there a Senate seat to fill here? Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick plans to announce Kerry's Senate interim replacement on Friday, though it's still unclear who the frontrunner for that position is. And while we can assume it will be a Democrat, things are getting increasingly messy. Former Representative Barney Frank, who retired from the House at the beginning of January, said earlier this month that he very much wants the temporary appointment. But according to the Boston Globe, that's unlikely. Patrick has recently signaled his desire to install "a woman or a person of color" instead, and is eyeing his former chief of staff, William Cowan, and Ted Kennedy's widow, Victoria, as potential five-month Senators.
In the Massachusetts special election to follow, however, things could be even rockier. While we may be close to knowing who will fill Kerry's empty Senate seat, there's still that early summer special election that his departure automatically triggers. Congressman Edward Markey is slated to run on the Democratic ticket (almost entirely unopposed among his own party) but so far nobody among the state's Republicans has stepped forward to challenge him. Speculation for that role has focused on former Senator Scott Brown — and literally no one else. If he doesn't run — and there's a chance he won't, if you count rumors that he wants to run for governor instead — then Markey could very well glide to an easy victory. In which case Kerry's confirmation would be more than easy, even practically assured — it would also be exceptionally well-timed. But Republicans, with the chance to pick a seat, won't go down easy: Brown ended up in the Senate in the first place after a special election, before he lost to Elizabeth Warren in the fall. So this game of musical chairs, after a one-day scramble, may be just beginning.