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Kentucky legislature overrides veto of McConnell-backed vacancy bill

The Republican-controlled Kentucky legislature on Monday overrode Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of a bill that significantly changes the process for appointing lawmakers to vacant Senate seats.

The legislation, which has the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRomney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS McConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists MORE (R-Ky.), requires the governor of Kentucky to temporarily fill a vacant Senate seat with a successor of the same political party as the departing lawmaker.

Additionally, the bill requires that the temporary successor be chosen from a list of three names put forward by the executive committee of the departing senator’s state party.

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Historically, Kentucky’s governor has had the authority to appoint any individual, of any political party, to fill vacant Senate seats, whether the lawmakers are departing by choice, expulsion or death, according to the Kentucky Courier Journal.

The bill also mandates new conditions regarding how long a governor’s temporary appointment can serve in the Senate before voters can elect a permanent successor, which will mainly depend on when the vacancy occurs. In addition, the legislation lays out new regulations on how these elections would proceed.

The bill had wide support in the Kentucky legislature. The state Senate voted 29-8 to override Beshear's veto, and the state House voted 70-24 to override the veto.

The Kentucky Courier Journal previously reported on this legislation.

The legislation has the support of McConnell, who won reelection in 2020 by nearly 20 points, securing six more years in the Senate. If McConnell were to vacate his seat before 2026 — and there are no indications that he is planning to do such a thing — these new guidelines would be in effect.

“This bill improves how vacancies are currently filled and guarantees Kentucky would not go without representation in the U.S. Senate for an extended period of time," McConnell said in a statement to The Hill.

"It would also ensure Kentucky voters have the ability to choose who they think will best represent them in a timely manner, as opposed to leaving that decision to the governor, regardless of party," he added.

Kentucky has not had a Democratic senator since 1999. This new legislation effectively prevents Beshear from appointing a Democrat to a vacant seat.