Living in the Washington, D.C. area, news outlets are abuzz with the story about Democratic South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson having a possible stroke and being in critical condition after brain surgery.
The buzz isn’t so much for his health per se, but with the possible impact on the Senate if he can’t serve, given the slim 51/49 majority the Dems won in November.
If, God forbid, Senator Johnson does not survive, South Dakota’s VERY Republican governor would be permitted to appoint Johnson’s successor — can we guess which party that person would be from?
But here’s the rub. There is apparently no protocol for what to do if Johnson survives, but is incapacitated. If Johnson is coherent but ill, he could resign. But if he is in a coma or otherwise mentally hampered from what people are assuming was a stroke (and subsequent brain surgery), and he can’t resign himself, there is no procedure to remove him.
You can bet all the money in your Christmas club account that there are at least a few GOP vultures who will press hard to get that seat to turn red from blue if the Senator survives but can’t serve, notwithstanding all the Republican talk since November 7 about bipartisan cooperation and working together for the good of the country.
For lawmakers who are potentially hatching such a plan, I have two words – Terri Schiavo.
Remember how you said that, even though Schiavo had been in a persistent vegetative state for over a decade, that you were convinced she had brain function? That she was able to see and hear and was aware of her surroundings? That she expressed emotion?
If Senator Johnson survives, but is severely incapacitated, then I say the same rules should apply to him.
That way, there’s no need to find a way to get him out of his hard-won Senate slot, and we can spend our energy hoping and praying for the Senator’s speedy recovery, not for the transfer of his seat.
So there you have it, Republicans — my holiday gift to you is that there’s no need to spend the next couple of weeks worrying about how to turn one man’s tragedy into a GOP power-grab.