White House staying silent on Kennedy succession

President Obama will not weigh in on whether he thinks the Massachusetts governor should be able to point a quick successor to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters at Martha's Vineyard on Thursday that the president prefers to leave the decision up to state officials.

"The decision of how Massachusetts will be represented in the United States Senate is up to the people and representatives of Massachusetts, and their governor," Burton said. "That's just not a scale that he's going to put his thumb on."

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has backed efforts pushed by the senator shortly before his death to appoint a quick interim senator to fill the vacancy before a special election could be held.

With the high-stakes debate over healthcare continuing this fall, a successor to Kennedy could be critical in determining the fate of reform Kennedy termed the cause of his life.

The White House declined to say how the senior senator's absence would affect the political calculus over healthcare, arguing that it would be inappropriate at this time.

"People are going to have discussions about this, but the president thinks today isn't the appropriate time to do that," Burton said.

The press secretary also described the personal role Kennedy had played with Obama, especially during the height of the presidential campaign.

"It was obviously incredible and immeasurable in some ways. He endorsed President Obama as a candidate at a time that provided a cannon burst for the campaign," Burton said. "It would be hard to replicate on any other way."