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The Massachusetts House of Representatives has approved legislation allowing Gov. Deval Patrick to name an interim appointment to the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Edward Kennedy. The House voted 95-58 in favor of the bill Thursday evening. The bill now moves to the Massachusetts Senate, where its outcome remains unclear.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Democrat, said the change in law is needed to ensure Massachusetts continues to be represented by two senators until voters can choose a replacement during a Jan. 19 special election. "I just want to make sure that Massachusetts has a say ... that Massachusetts has their voice heard on health care, on the environment, on clean energy," DeLeo said.

Republicans, who number just 16 in the House, oppose the bill. They point out that Democrats changed the succession law in 2004 to create a special election and block then-Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, from naming a temporary replacement if Sen. John Kerry had won his presidential bid.


Border fence to cost $6.5B over 20 years

A government audit says it will cost taxpayers $6.5 billion over the next 20 years to maintain the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. But as the Obama administration realizes the long-term costs of the border fence, it does not have a way to evaluate whether this investment has helped control illegal entries into the country, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday. The $6.5 billion price tag is in addition to the $2.4 billion that's been spent to build more than 600 miles of fence segments along the southwest border. As of May 14, there have been 3,363 breaches in the fence, which cost about $1,300 each to repair, GAO found. The fence is a Bush administration initiative that has faced several delays and cost increases.

U.S. to donate some of its flu vaccine

The United States plans to donate 10 percent of its supply of pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine to the World Health Organization for use by low-income countries. The country currently has on order 195 million doses of the swine flu vaccine, which is due to start arriving early next month. The White House said it "is taking this action in concert" with eight other countries. The White House released no details of the program, such as timetables and total amounts of vaccine to be donated. Officials at the Geneva-based WHO did not respond to phone and e-mail inquiries. The other countries making donations are Australia, Brazil, Britain, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland.

Times wires