Discussions with key U.S. House staffers indicate that in the wake of Senator Arlen Specter’s (D-PA) AFL-CIO speech suggesting the possibility of a Senate EFCA compromise, Monday’s talk of the House moving forward on the controversial bill now is merely an option if the Senate fails to act this Fall.

The consensus remains that the Senate likely will move first if a "Specter Compromise" is reached and the House would then take up the Senate-passed bill.

On Tuesday, the heavily Democratic Massachusetts Senate voted 24-16 to allow Governor Deval Patrick to name an interim U.S. Senate replacement for the late Edward M. Kennedy. In what many Republicans call "a stunning example of Democrat hypocrisy,” the state legislature on Wednesday gave the measure final approval, thus allowing an immediate interim appointment.

This morning it was announced that Edward Kennedy’s former aide, 71-year-old Paul Kirk, was appointed by Governor Patrick. “There is no question that Paul Kirk will continue to do the work Ted Kennedy would have done if he were here,” Boston-based Democratic consultant Mary Anne Marsh said, “He’s not going to be Ted Kennedy, but he certainly will vote like him and the office will operate the way it would have under Kennedy.” In January 2010, Massachusetts voters will elect a senator to serve the remaining three years of Kennedy’s term.

Senator Robert Byrd’s hospitalization Tuesday, after falling at his home, provides another obstacle for Democrats who have yet to fully enjoy the strength of a filibuster-proof majority.

It remains to be seen if either Mr. Kirk or the Massachusetts senator who is to be elected in 2010 will have the opportunity to vote on a version of EFCA.