WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota was critically ill but stable on Thursday after brain surgery for a potentially deadly bleeding that could deprive his fellow Democrats of their razor-thin hold on the new Senate….Eisold’s announcement for the moment calmed the atmosphere in Congress where Johnson’s condition had set off speculation over Democrats’ hold on the new Senate coming into power in January.
U.S. Senator Tim Johnson was barely out of surgery and into recovery for a congenital brain blood vessel mass before the speculation had begun as to what effect his absence could have on the balance of political power between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. With a thin 51-49 majority margin to begin with, the loss of Democrat Tim Johnson would reduce the margin to 50-49 with the speculation that South Dakota Republican Gov. Michael Rounds would name a Republican to finish Johnson’s final two years of his six-year term thus resulting in a 50-50 Senate. In cases of tied voting, the vice president breaks all ties. Visions of Democratic rule of the Senate were dying as quickly as Tim Johnson’s brain was being strangled by the blood mass.
I couldn’t help thinking while watching the news this evening just how much this looks like vultures picking on a not-yet-dead creature. According to the Senate Historian’s Office, for a senator to be replaced, he must either resign or die. Numerous previous senators have continued in their positions while completely incapacitated for sometimes years. While Tim Johnson’s illness was certainly critical and potentially fatal, it was grossly inappropriate for anyone to be discussing the possible ramifications on the shift in political power of the senate as if he had died.
If he had been on his deathbed, propriety would demand some measure of respect for the soon-to-be deceased before the squabbling begins over the particulars of his estate.