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What’s Up With Joe Biden’s Senate Seat ?

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MSNBC’s First Read speculates that there may be a nepotism play going on with Joe Biden’s Delaware Senate seat:

With President-elect Obama having resigned his Senate seat yesterday, folks may be wondering about what Vice President-elect Biden might do.

Biden told a local TV station right before Election Day he didn’t want to resign his seat right away, leading to speculation about whether he is trying to deny the outgoing governor of Delaware — Democrat Ruth Ann Minner — the chance to appoint his successor.

Under that scenario, Biden would wait until moments before he is sworn in as vice president to resign his seat, which could enable the new governor, Jack Markell, to make the appointment.

Biden has been said for some time to be grooming his son Beau Biden to succeed him in the Senate. Beau is currently Delaware’s Attorney General. He is on leave while he serves on active duty in the Delaware National Guard, where he is a captain.

Beau Biden is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq for about a year, making it unlikely he’d be appointed now to his father’s seat. But he would be well positioned to run in 2010, when a special election will be held to fill the remaining four years of his father’s term.

The current thinking then is that a placeholder would be appointed to fill the seat for two years until the younger Biden could run. The consensus choice of Delaware Democratic officials is the outgoing Lt. Gov. Jack Carney, who lost his own bid governor to Markell in a bitter primary.

Now there’s nothing new about family members being appointed to succeed each other in Congress. Jean Carnhan was appointed to her husband’s term after he died in a plane crash. Mary Bono replaced Sonny Bono in Congress. Hubert Humphrey’s widow filled out the remainder of his Senate term when he died. Up in Alaska, Lisa Murkowski was appointed to fill her father’s vacated Senate seat by her father. And, there have already been reports that ailing Senator Ted Kennedy has maneuvered to ensure that his wife Victoria his appointed to his seat should he die before his term ends.

Just because it’s a tradition, though, doesn’t make it right. What makes Beau Biden qualified to be a United States Senator ? Other than serving as Delaware’s Attorney General since 2006, he has no political experience (and one wonders how he can serve as Attorney General while he’s deployed in Iraq). If he weren’t related to Joe Biden, he wouldn’t even seriously be considered for the job. You can say pretty much the same thing about Jean Carnahan, Mary Bono, and Vicki Kennedy.

Ideally, nepotism of this type should be prohibited, but then, as James Joyner notes, so should the whole questionable practice of allowing Governors to appoint political cronies to a Senate seats and given them a leg up on the inevitible special election.

Of course, if we were living in an ideal world we’d be talking seriously about repealing the 17th Amendment and returning the Senate to the function it was intended to service, but that’s not likely to happen.