Thursday, December 14, 2006

Control Of The Senate On The Line Again

Yesterday, Democratic Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota suffered bleeding in the brain caused by congenital malformation. It appeared at first that he had a stroke. He was doing a phone interview, started stuttering, recovered, and went back to his office. There he felt bad, they got the physician, who had him sent to the hospital. Today he underwent emergency brain surgery.

This could have a political impact. The North Dakota Governor Mike Rounds is a Republican, and if Johnson were to leave office he would appoint a new senator, who could be a Republican. The Senate right now is 51-49 in favor of the Democrats. If a Republican Senator were to take over, the Senate would be split 50-50 with the Vice President having the tie breaking vote, giving control of the Senate to the Republicans. That would be significant since which party has control over the Senate has control over the committees, over the legislation that makes it to the floor, over judicial nominations, etc. I'm from Kentucky, and Senator McConnell from Kentucky who as of right now will be Minority Leader would become the Majority leader.

To anyone who would put politics above an individual man's health, don't break out the champagne yet. The Senator would have to resign or die, he wouldn't be forced out. In 1969, Republican South Dakota Senator Karl Mundt suffered a stroke and continued to serve out his last 4 years even though he never went to Congress. So if Johnson were not to recover, it is highly likely he'd hold onto his seat just to keep control of the Senate in the hands of the Democrats. Which, if that happens, we're paying from taxpayer money Johnson to do nothing. Of course, we're already paying Congress to do nothing, so that's not anything new.

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