Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has named former Democratic National Committee Chairman Paul Kirk, Jr., to temporarily replace the late Edward M. Kennedy in the U.S. Senate.

Kirk, a longtime friend and former aide to the late senator, will serve in the post until voters pick a permanent replacement during a special election in January.

The governor told reporters Thursday that matters before Congress and the nation are "too important for us to be one voice short" in Washington.

The appointment gives Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate the 60th seat needed to circumvent efforts by Senate Republicans to prevent crucial votes on a health care reform bill.

The late senator had called reform of the nation's health care system the cause of his life.

U.S. President Barack Obama says Kirk is an excellent interim choice to carry on the work of the late senator.

Kirk described the appointment as a profound honor and added that he will not run in the special election.

Kennedy's widow, Victoria, and his two sons, Edward Junior and U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, each urged Governor Patrick to name Kirk.

Kennedy died August 25 of brain cancer.


The appointment comes one day after the Massachusetts state House and Senate passed legislation allowing the governor to name an interim replacement until a special election is held.