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Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Paul Kirk, Jr., has been sworn in as the temporary replacement for the late Edward M. Kennedy in the U.S. Senate.

Vice President Joe Biden presided over the ceremony Friday.

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

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced Thursday that he was naming Kirk to the seat.  The governor said matters before Congress and the nation are, in his words, "too important for us to be one voice short" in Washington.

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

The late Senator Kennedy had called reform of the U.S. health care system the cause of his life.

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

Kennedy died August  25 of brain cancer.

Governor Patrick announced Kirk's appointment one day after the Massaschusetts state House and Senate passed legislation allowing the governor to name an interim replacement until a special election is held.

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

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.