Senate Back Up For Grabs?
December 13, 2006 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Newsfilter: The United States Senate may once again be up for grabs. Senator Tim Johnson, D-SD, 60, has reportedly just suffered a stroke and is currently undergoing tests at The George Washington University Medical Center.
posted by The White Hat (68 comments total)
Rove is one sneaky mofo.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 2:42 PM on December 13, 2006

Karl Rove's December surprise?
posted by Flashman at 2:43 PM on December 13, 2006

While we're talking about GWU Medical Center, I just wanted to let you know whom their Emergency Medicine Center is named after.
posted by brownpau at 2:45 PM on December 13, 2006

Well, I guess Pat Robertson's prayers have been answered. It won't be long until he comes out with a statement along the lines of "GOD IS STILL A REPUBLICAN, EAT IT, LIBRULS!"
posted by notswedish at 2:47 PM on December 13, 2006

If he decides to step down, South Dakota's Republican Governor, Mike Rounds, will name his replacement. Should Johnson step down and should Rounds choose a Republican, the GOP will maintain control of the US Senate come January.
posted by The White Hat at 2:47 PM on December 13, 2006

Seriously, though, this is terrible, both for him and his family and the country... that WHY??? tag is quite appropriate.
posted by notswedish at 2:48 PM on December 13, 2006

At this stage he is undergoing a comprehensive evaluation by the stroke team

I know this is serious stuff, but I couldn't help snickering when I read that.
posted by brain_drain at 2:50 PM on December 13, 2006

By the way, all this speculation seems premature. He went in to be tested for a "possible stroke," but that's a long way from resigning from the Senate, isn't it?
posted by brain_drain at 2:54 PM on December 13, 2006

Strokes never stopped Reagan or GW.
posted by gottabefunky at 2:55 PM on December 13, 2006

oh dear god
posted by deliquescent at 2:55 PM on December 13, 2006

Brain_drain is correct. Between a really good response time and a crack team of paramedics and ER surgeons, I'd be willing to conjecture that anything short of an Ariel Sharon-magnitude stroke would have Johnson back on his feet before the Senate reconvenes. Too early to know anything for sure, though.
posted by The White Hat at 3:01 PM on December 13, 2006

Even if he doesn't recover, as long as he is alive, it is up to him whether to continue to serve. He will have to stand down before the governor can name a replacement.
posted by owhydididoit at 3:06 PM on December 13, 2006

Why does the Governor get to appoint a Senator?
Is it just a temporary appointment until a real election can be planned, or is it a full term post?
posted by Balisong at 3:09 PM on December 13, 2006

Y Kant Balisong Read?

If Senator Johnson, 59, stands down, the Republican governor of his state, South Dakota, will name his successor.

That person - likely to be a Republican - would serve until the next general election in 2008.

posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 3:14 PM on December 13, 2006

Seems like a crappy rule to me.
I saw that he will name his successor, but WHY?
posted by Balisong at 3:16 PM on December 13, 2006

Balisong, the relevant SD state statute is here. The governor would get to appoint someone, who would hold the position until they hold a special election, which, according to this statute, would take place the same time as the next General Election. That's Nov. 2008, which happens to be when Johnson's term is set to expire anyway.
posted by Partial Law at 3:16 PM on December 13, 2006

Y Tu Kant, Tambien
posted by xod at 3:17 PM on December 13, 2006

Actually, the specific statute controlling in this situation would be §12-11-6, which states that there is no special election because the term is set to expire. Functionally, it's the same.
posted by Partial Law at 3:21 PM on December 13, 2006

So he can choose anyone to be his successor, Partial law?
posted by uni verse at 3:29 PM on December 13, 2006

anyone who fits the requirements of the position.

Here's to a swift and full recovery.
posted by amberglow at 3:31 PM on December 13, 2006

No, sorry I wasn't clear. The first statute I linked to, §12-11-4, controls and gives the Governor (not Senator Johnson, if he resigns) the right to appoint someone in this situation. The third one I linked to, §12-11-6 says that since Johnson's term would have expired in January 2009, then the appointed person's term also expires in January 2009, meaning someone new would be elected like usual in November 2008 and it wouldn't be called a "special election" because it's when the normal election would have been.
posted by Partial Law at 3:33 PM on December 13, 2006

as mentioned above, God is clearly a Republican. this is of course a tragedy for the Senator and his family, and I feel for them, but one cannot avoid to chuckle at the Donald Duck-like bad luck the Democrats have -- not only their majority is in Joe Liberman's newly Independent, Bush-worshipping hands, they also lose a Senator forty days after winning Congress back
posted by matteo at 3:37 PM on December 13, 2006

"Possible stroke" is obviously code for "radiation poisoning."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:40 PM on December 13, 2006

(and I say "lose a Senator" because the NBC guy, whatever his name is, just said that the Senator seems to have lost the ability to speak, which I suppose is an extremely bad sign for the full recovery he'd need to stay in office -- and yes, I suppose that he's still more eloquent than the President, but this is not the right time for jokes I'm afraid, unless one is a particularly coldblooded Republican)
posted by matteo at 3:43 PM on December 13, 2006

This Republican Senate is like the monster in a bad vampire film. You keep thinking you've killed it, but it keeps coming back.
posted by imperium at 3:44 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Jesus, is the GOP outsourcing to Putin for its dirty tricks now?

American Jobs for Americans, people!
posted by the sobsister at 3:44 PM on December 13, 2006

You have to wonder what kind of backlash the Republicans would suffer if they appointed a Republican senator to swing back the balance of power. It might cost them dearly in the next election.
posted by The God Complex at 3:47 PM on December 13, 2006

Sen. Majority (?) Leader Reid had a stroke a year or two ago and he is fine. Hopefully the same can be said for Sen. Johnson.
posted by SirOmega at 3:48 PM on December 13, 2006

Meanwhile, in news from the House, Democrats take one final victory in 2006 election.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:48 PM on December 13, 2006

All of this derives from the 17th Amendment:

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of each State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:50 PM on December 13, 2006

via MSNBC:

The Senate Historian's office cites several examples of a senator being incapacitated for years and remaining in office.

Most recently, Sen. Karl Mundt (ironically, also from South Dakota) suffered a stroke in 1969 and was incapacitated, but he refused to step down. He remained in office until Jan. 1973 when his term expired. Mundt was pressured repeatedly to step down during his illness, but he demanded that the governor promise to appoint his wife. The governor refused, and Mundt remained in office.

Another example was Sen. Carter Glass, D-VA. Sen. Glass had a heart condition that prevented him from working for most of his last term after his re-election in 1942. Yet Glass refused to resign, and finally passed away from congestive heart failure in his apartment at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC in May of 1946.

posted by pruner at 3:55 PM on December 13, 2006

Very sad.

The recent Republican talking-points have run along the line of, well, it isn't Bush's war now, it's the Democrats' war (lol).

If they put another Republican into the Senate, that meme won't hunt.

Here's to a swift recovery. And many, many subpoenas coming out of the House no matter what.
posted by bardic at 3:56 PM on December 13, 2006

I was thinking the same thing as The God Complex.

I'd imagine there'd be a lot of pressure to appoint a Democratic placeholder... someone who promised not seek election in 08. Tom Daschle is available.
posted by pruner at 3:58 PM on December 13, 2006

the sobsister writes "Jesus, is the GOP outsourcing to Putin for its dirty tricks now?"

This is exactly what I was thinking. Pretty much from now on I'm going to assume the Russians are to blame for any mysterious illnesses.
posted by mullingitover at 4:05 PM on December 13, 2006

perhaps Johnson's situation has improved... Drudge isn't using red text anymore.
posted by pruner at 4:09 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't know that this is such an important event. Seems to me the Dems have already been castrated by waitng on the Baker panel for direction - which promotes the option of escalating the war in the short term, with reductions in force delayed until at least 2008. Looks to me like it's full speed ahead with the killing whether this guy resigns or not.
posted by crispynubbins at 4:09 PM on December 13, 2006

Just when you think you're out....they pull you back in.
posted by dflemingdotorg

It's occurrences like this that keep American politics interesting. I just finished reading what the koskids had to say on the subject and am considering checking out the freepers cesspool. Zealots of any stripe are always fun.
posted by buggzzee23 at 4:23 PM on December 13, 2006

I hope he has Dick Cheney's strong health. Or doctors.
posted by AwkwardPause at 4:24 PM on December 13, 2006

according to a post on Daily Kos, CNN just reported that "Sen. Johnson's staff is now saying that it appears that Sen. Johnson did not suffer from a stroke, or a heart attack but that they are not sure exactly what happenned to him."
posted by pruner at 4:25 PM on December 13, 2006

well, that was a slightly optimistic feeling now gone to shot. Here's hoping a safe recovery - and health is truly a bipartisan issue, as no one on any side of the political spectrum should have to go through the pain of watching a loved one recover from a stroke. To be fair, there are plenty of different kinds of strokes, and the results do vary.

That 17th amendement bit - so the exec authority of the state can make temporary appointments until there's an election - so put a Republican in there until 2008? More wacky legislative loopholes to ensure Democrat misery.

I hope nobody takes this the wrong way, but after hearing that he's had a stroke one wonders if electing a few younger officials might help. Wikipedia told me 95% of strokes occur in people age 45 and older, and two-thirds of strokes occur in those over the age of 65. (please, nobody go all accuracy of stats and problems of correlation - I'm just thinking out loud here, people...)
posted by rmm at 4:26 PM on December 13, 2006

Jonhson's spokesman confirms it was not a stroke or heart attack.
posted by pruner at 4:27 PM on December 13, 2006

(Disclaimer: Daschle works in my office)

Wow, he's temping.
posted by bardic at 4:28 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Wait, what happens in this situation? Does the first person to sit in his seat get it, like musical chairs?
posted by tehloki at 4:35 PM on December 13, 2006


if Johnson were to die or resign, the Republican Governor would appoint a replacement to serve out the remainder of his term (until Jan 09). Johnson cannot be forced to resign.
posted by pruner at 4:37 PM on December 13, 2006

I try to avoid conspiracy thinking, but just to be safe, Democrats should not fly anywhere for the next two years.
posted by drezdn at 5:19 PM on December 13, 2006

"A completed stroke is caused by irreversible brain injury secondary to the interruption of blood flow. In contrast, a transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a temporary focal neurologic deficit caused by the brief interruption of local cerebral blood flow."
posted by hank at 5:30 PM on December 13, 2006

Sounds like he's going to be fine.
And if he retires, it's possible there will have to be a special election in 80 days or so.
That would suck ass though.
Paul Wellstone, anyone?
posted by bukharin at 5:30 PM on December 13, 2006


where'd did you hear/read about the possibility of a special election?

as far as I understand, that is not the case.
posted by pruner at 5:41 PM on December 13, 2006

This is all reminding me of a movie... I'm trying to remember which one... something about a senator dying, and some Boy Scout guy gets appointed as a patsy...

I know! Die Hard!
posted by evilcolonel at 5:58 PM on December 13, 2006

got any links XQUZYPHYR? I can't seem to find that info anywhere.
posted by pruner at 6:05 PM on December 13, 2006

12-11-1. Special election to fill congressional vacancy--Time of election of representative. If a vacancy occurs in the office of a senator or representative in the United States Congress it shall be the duty of the Governor within ten days of the occurrence, to issue a proclamation setting the date of and calling for a special election for the purpose of filling such vacancy. If either a primary or general election is to be held within six months, an election to fill a vacancy in the office of representative in the United States Congress shall be held in conjunction with that election, otherwise the election shall be held not less than eighty nor more than ninety days after the vacancy occurs.

From here (pdf)
posted by buggzzee23 at 6:11 PM on December 13, 2006

thank you buggzzee23
posted by pruner at 6:15 PM on December 13, 2006

Where is Daschle's legal residence at this point? Does he still claim a district in SD as his home, or has he moved to DC "permanently", which would preclude his running for office?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 6:26 PM on December 13, 2006

has he moved to DC "permanently", which would preclude his running for office?

You know, one party or the other makes that a campaign issue from time to time, but you very rarely hear of it actually precluding a campaign for office. Most states merely require that you reside in the state/district at the time of assumption of the office, or at the time of the election. Cheney, you will recall, lived in Texas, not Wyoming -- which should have raised a Constitutional issue, easily dealt with.

As Steven said, the Constitution specifies different handling of vacancies for the Senate and House. Partly this is because Senators, up until the 17th Amendment, represented the state governments rather than the people of the states. As such the states all have slightly different ways of handling vacancies.

Some states have a political tradition that would make it a shocking departure for even a governor of $PARTY1 to appoint someone of $PARTY1 to fill a position formerly held by $PARTY2. In other states, there would be no hesitation.

The formerly widespread practice of appointing wives to fill their late husband's term is almost entirely obsolete, though.
posted by dhartung at 7:27 PM on December 13, 2006

FYI, apparently according to CNN he's having brain surgery now.
posted by michswiss at 11:53 PM on December 13, 2006

I wonder if he's got an aneurism. That could cause stroke-like symptoms, but if they catch it in time and if it's accessible surgically it may be possible to correct it without any permanent ill-effects.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:32 AM on December 14, 2006

I'm just about having a stroke contemplating this development.

Why don't they have vice senators? Or a line of succession? Either would be more civilized than letting the governor name anyone (his bowling buddy, for example) who fits the basic requirements (natural born citizen, not natural born killer, not a citizen untimely ripped from his mother's womb, etc.).
posted by pracowity at 12:41 AM on December 14, 2006

Or, you know, a by-election?
posted by MrMustard at 3:16 AM on December 14, 2006

Apparently he's now in critical condition following brain surgery.
posted by thirteenkiller at 5:32 AM on December 14, 2006

This is a really sad reflection on the state of politics in the US today. Instead of concern that they guy gets better, you know, because a stroke's a nasty thing, the concern is that he gets better or not based on his political party.

A dickwad republican partisan I know just said "well, if he doesn't get better it will be good for the party."
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:46 AM on December 14, 2006

He'll be fine. After all, Strom Thurman served several terms after actually dying.
posted by klangklangston at 7:12 AM on December 14, 2006

Current word is that it was not a stroke, but bleeding in the brain from AVM (which, if you watched Six Feet Under, is what Nate had).
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 7:52 AM on December 14, 2006

Most states merely require that you reside in the state/district at the time of assumption of the office, or at the time of the election.

That's the assumption though, right? That the state constitution has no clause stating that any given candidate needs to be a resident of the state/district for a given period of time. So now there are two questions on the table: where is Daschle's residency, and what does SD law say about running for the US Senate in terms of residency?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 4:45 PM on December 14, 2006


Dang, I was looking forward to some congressional musical chairs battle-royale action.
posted by tehloki at 11:41 PM on December 14, 2006

I read the South Dakota Election Code, that buggzzee23 quoted and linked to, so why does the Secretary of State for South Dakota, Chris Nelson, keep insisting it doesn't apply?

A provision in state law calls for a special election when a U.S. Senate seat is vacant, but Secretary of State Chris Nelson said it would not apply because Johnson's term ends after the next general election.

"If there's a vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement who serves until the next general election," Nelson said.


From what I can tell, the next general election isn't until 2008, and that's farther off than 6 months ... even if Mr. Johnson doesn't die or resign right this minute. I guess I am just not understanding why Mr. Nelson doesn't think the election code would apply.

Anyway, hope Mr. Johnson gets better. Sounds like a horrid thing to go through.
posted by Orb at 2:06 AM on December 15, 2006

apparently it's some congenital blood vessel thing that they fixed.
posted by amberglow at 6:24 AM on December 15, 2006

Huzzah! In other ambiguous news, Castro apparently died.
posted by tehloki at 8:54 AM on December 15, 2006

... "He has been appropriately responsive to both word and touch. No further surgical intervention has been required," said the physician, Adm. John Eisold.

Johnson was responding to the voice of his wife, Barbara, and following directions after the surgery, the senator's office said in a statement. "He was reaching for and holding her hand," the statement read.

The family "is encouraged and optimistic," ...

posted by amberglow at 12:49 PM on December 15, 2006

« Older A reason to call in sick tomorrow.   |   TPUG Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments