Update: The hospital reports that Senator Johnson did not suffer a stroke or heart attack:

CNBC just reported that Senator Tim Johnson, Democrat of South Dakota, was just taken to a hospital in Washington, DC after suffering an apparent stroke. There is not yet an update on his condition.

I hope that Senator Johnson (who is very hard to dislike even though he is a Democrat) has a full and speedy recovery.

Nevertheless, I must point out the potential political ramifications if he is unable to continue serving in the US Senate.

Under South Dakota law, and in accordance with the Seventeenth Amendment, the Governor of South Dakota will appoint a replacement for a Senate vacancy, and a special election to fill the seat will not be held until the time of the next general election.


The Governor of South Dakota, Mike Rounds, is a Republican. If Senator Johnson were unable to continue, Rounds would almost certainly appoint a Republican to fill the vacancy, which would put the Senate at a 50-50 tie between Republicans versus Democrats and their “Independent” allies. Vice-President Cheney would then vote to break a tie, and (presuming all Republicans voted along party lines) would give the GOP control of the Senate.

Again, I want to stress that I do not hope that Senator Johnson is too ill to continue to serve. I wish him a quick and complete recovery. I am just pointing out the interesting consequences if he is unable or unwilling to stay in the Senate.

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