(CNN) - The Massachusetts Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would allow the state's governor to appoint an interim replacement to hold the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat until a special election is held in January.
The measure, which won the approval of the Massachusetts House last week, is heavily backed by White House officials, who want to ensure Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate - the necessary number to stave off a Republican-led filibuster - when the chamber takes up a health care reform bill later this fall.
The bill, which passed on a 24-16 vote, must now be voted on again by both chambers as a procedural matter before reaching Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick's desk. Patrick, a longtime Obama ally, has said he will sign the measure and will move quickly to fill the vacancy.
In an editorial Tuesday, the Boston Globe urged Patrick tap former Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis for the post.
"The ideal candidate for the interim job would have a high profile, significant policy expertise, and a record of political independence – but no further political ambitions," the editorial said. "Dukakis is the most logical choice; indeed, he may be the only one who meets all the relevant criteria."
Dukakis, currently a professor at Northeastern University in Boston, has repeatedly ducked questions about whether he'd be interested in the four-month-long job.
"I'm not going to talk about that," he told the Boston Globe last week. "The one thing that's important is that the bill gets passed."
A special election to fill the rest of Kennedy's term is set for January 19, with primaries slated for December 8.