Senator Johnson underwent surgery last night, although no one is saying what made him ill. If they’re operating on him, I assume the doctors have a theory.
More on Senator Johnson from today’s New York Times:
An unassuming fourth-generation South Dakotan, Mr. Johnson was first elected to the Senate in 1996, after serving 10 years in the House, where he had replaced Tom Daschle, a fellow Democrat who ran for the Senate and ultimately became the majority leader.
Mr. Johnson faced a tough race in 2002 against John Thune, a Republican. With the state suffering billions of dollars in losses from a severe drought, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Daschle promised $5 billion in drought relief, and Mr. Johnson won narrowly after President Bush visited the state for Mr. Thune and declined to announce that he would support the relief. (Mr. Thune went on to beat Mr. Daschle in 2004.)
Mr. Johnson is up for re-election in 2008. His oldest son, Brooks, served in Afghanistan and is serving in Iraq.
Click here for Senator Johnson’s biography on his web site.
My understanding is that if the Senator survives he is under no obligation to resign from the Senate, even if he is impaired. Back to the New York Times:
He is the second senator known to become ill since the November elections. Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming, a Republican, is being treated for leukemia, but has been at work.
According to information from the Senate historian cited on CQ.com, at least nine senators have taken extended absences from the Senate for health reasons since 1942. Robert F. Wagner, Democrat of New York, was unable to attend any sessions of the 80th or 81st Congress from 1947 to 1949 because of a heart ailment. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, missed about seven months in 1988 after surgery for a brain aneurysm. And David Pryor, Democrat of Arkansas, suffered a heart attack in April 1991 and returned to the Senate in September that year.
The Right has decided it’s indelicate to even mention the significant political consequences of losing Senator Johnson. In fact, posts about Senator Johnson on rightie blogs this morning are so consistently conciliatory about the Senator one wonders if they were all on the same conference call with someone from the RNC.
It is of course quite possible to be genuinely concerned about the Senator as a person and worried about the political consequences of his death or resignation at the same time. This is especially true for those of us who fear that if the Senate stays in Republican control our country will be significantly impaired. Here’s another New York Times story about something that won’t happen if the GOP stays in charge, for example. If it’s indelicate to be gravely concerned about the future of the United States of America, then I will be indelicate.