Democratic Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota was admitted to a hospital after possibly suffering a stroke. The Washington Post reports that Johnson was taken to George Washington Hospital because he felt ill in the morning.
According to Senator Johnson’s spokeswoman Julianne Fisher the symptoms were detected early. Hopefully early detection means Senator Johnson can lead a fulfilling life whether he remains in office or not.
Crass as it is to write about however there are repercussions beyond Senator Johnson’s well being. South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds is a Republican and one can expect he would select a member of his own party to replace Johnson. Consequently the Senate would be split 50-50 with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote.
That happened to be the precise composition of the Senate in 2001 when Vermont’s Jim Jeffords left the GOP to be come an independent – giving Democrats a majority until the 2002 mid-term elections. Any replacement for Senator Johnson would be allowed to fill his term until the 2008 election.
If Johnson can’t complete his term the outlook is not favorable for Democrats or the country. There is no Republican likely to be converted to give the Democratic Party a majority. However, Senator Joe Lieberman is certainly a threat to discontinue caucusing with Democrats. Republicans will no doubt hit Lieberman with a hard sell.
I suspect Lieberman would be loath to give liberals the satisfaction of saying, “we told you so” about him going back on his word. However, his leverage is enhanced and Lieberman will extract heavy concessions from Democrats. Given Lieberman’s warped views on national security and corporatist leanings this is a troublesome development indeed.