Sen. Johnson in critical condition

I thought he was out of the woods last night when his spokesman said it wasn’t a stroke. Not so; they performed brain surgery on him this morning. It was successful, but the next 48 hours are key.

CNN has audio of the conference call he was on when the stroke struck.

Inevitably come the politics:

[A] Senate that becomes evenly split after it is in session would not necessarily fall to Republicans, Senate historians said. Rules and precedents could leave a party in charge of the chamber even after its membership falls below that of the other party.

“It’s what happens in January that counts,” said Senate associate historian Donald A. Ritchie, referring to when party leaders hash out rules governing the chamber’s organization.

In order to adopt new rules organizing the Senate, the two parties must reach nearly unanimous agreement. Democrats in 2001 blocked the naming of committee chairmen and members, demanding concessions before agreeing to the rules. Among those concessions: Should the numerical advantage change, all committee assignments and chairmanships would be nullified, and a new organization would have to be submitted…

Senate Republican sources said yesterday that their party is likely to press for similar concessions when negotiating the operating rules for the next Congress. But even if Johnson were incapacitated, Democratic aides say, they would resist.

In 2001, the Senate was 50-50. That’s how the Dems were able to block. With Johnson away from the floor in January, this one would be 50-49 when the rules are voted on. So we’re probably assured of Democratic committee chairmen no matter how this plays out.

Kurtz thinks it’s time for states to get rid of the rule whereby governors appoint a replacement if a Senator can’t serve out his term. I agree. It’s a vestige of the days when Senators were elected by the state legislature. Why continue to let local government send replacements to Washington when the people they’re replacing were directly elected?

Update: Helpful: “Recovery time may take weeks or months or longer.”

Update: Noel Sheppard pronounces the death of American decency based on the fact that people are considering the implications of Johnson’s illness. Mary K also thinks it’s crass to speculate. Please. No one wants the guy to die. The fact is, his absence from the Senate could have momentous political consequences. Asking people who cover politics for a living not to so much as acknowledge the elephant in the room is silly.

Update: I assume everyone knows that, but in case not, Johnson is fully entitled to retain his seat while he convalesces. Doesn’t matter how long it takes.