Sen. Johnson

First off, I certainly hope he recovers.
But if he doesn’t then…

Should Johnson not be able to complete his term, which ends in 2008, South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican, would appoint his replacement, which could shift the balance of power in the Senate.

Reading the relevant SD statutes here I find these rules:

12-11-1. Special election to fill congressional vacancy–Time of election of representative. If a vacancy occurs in the office of a senator or representative in the United States Congress it shall be the duty of the Governor within ten days of the occurrence, to issue a proclamation setting the date of and calling for a special election for the purpose of filling such vacancy. If either a primary or general election is to be held within six months, an election to fill a vacancy in the office of representative in the United States Congress shall be held in conjunction with that election, otherwise the election shall be held not less than eighty nor more than ninety days after the vacancy occurs.
12-11-4. Temporary appointment by Governor to fill vacancy in United States Senate. Pursuant to the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, the Governor may fill by temporary appointment, until a special election is held pursuant to this chapter, vacancies in the office of senator in the Senate of the United States.
12-11-5. Special election to fill senate vacancy. The special election to fill the vacancy of a senator shall be held at the same time as the next general election. The general election laws shall apply unless inconsistent with this chapter.

The kicker in all of this is that there’s nothing that defines ‘vacancy’ or ‘unable to complete term’. Oh sure, there’s this

3-4-1. Events causing vacancy in office. Every office shall become vacant on the happening of any one of the following events before the expiration of the term of such office:
(1) The death of the incumbent;
(2) His resignation;
(3) His removal from office;
(4) His failure to qualify as provided by law;
(5) His ceasing to be a resident of the state, district, county, township, or precinct in which the duties of his office are to be exercised or for which he may have been elected;
(6) His conviction of any infamous crime or of any offense involving a violation of his official oath;
(7) Whenever a judgment shall be obtained against him for a breach of his official bond.

But let’s say, god forbid, that he lapses into a coma or vegetative state. He’s not ‘dead’, but can he stil be said to occupy his office, Strom Thurmond notwithstanding? The Senate Rules make no mention of whether the Senator is actually able to attend and function.
And you can bet the Dems will fight tooth and nail that unless he’s dead the office ain’t vacant.

16 Responses to “Sen. Johnson”

  1. Local RWDB radio this morning mentioned that it has been a practice of both parties to wheel deathly ill politicians in (on stretchers, no less) for important votes. Don’t be surprised if a comatose Mr. Johnson registers a vote.

  2. Rob says:

    I’d be surprised if anyone tried to take political advantage, Mr Bingley. I think there would be outrage from the right as well as the left if the Governor appointed a Republican to replace a Democrat, essentially overturning an election.

  3. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Rob, it’s the Governor’s call. By law. And it wouldn’t be the first time there has been outrage over an interim senatorial appointment.
    I recall one governor (forget who), when it came to making such an appointment, resigned as governor, and had the lieutenant governor (once he had assumed the reins) appoint the former governor as the new senator.
    Oddly enough, the former governor was trashed in the next election.
    This is what the Consitution is for.
    OTOH, it does depend on the size of the governor’s gonads. So who knows?

  4. Rob, it’s not overturning an election. People may scream about it, but governors normally appoint members of their own party no matter the affiliation of the dead.

  5. Rob says:

    Ken and Jeff,
    It’s a bad idea to seize on a death or debility as a political opportunity. That’s how this will be seen. The electorate will see right through the two arguments you two just made if the Governor were to attempt to make them. Whereas I take those arguments from you guys at face value, the governor will not be given that grace. That sh*tstorm will extend far beyond South Dakota’s borders. If a decision has to be made, I expect him to appoint a friend from the other side of the aisle. I’m sure he has some. That’s what *I* think, anyway.

  6. Mr. Bingley says:

    Actually, Rob, in the most recent Senate election in 2004 South Dakotans elected a Republican. But there is a pretty long-standing tradition that Governors have complete freedom to appoint whom they want, and that person is invariably someone from their own party.
    Some interesting trivia on the South Dakota Senate page:
    In 1972 the Senate Republican Conference stripped Senator Karl E. Mundt of his three committee assignments. Mundt, who had not appeared in the Senate since suffering a stroke in late 1969, had been ranking minority member of the Government Relations Committee and second ranking member on both the Appropriations and Foreign Relations Committees. Among the forty-five Senate Republicans, Mundt ranked third. His poor health prevented him from seeking a fifth term in the Senate.

  7. The_Real_JeffS says:

    It’s a bad idea to seize on a death or debility as a political opportunity. That’s how this will be seen.
    Rob, I do understand your point. It’s just that I don’t care how “this will be seen”. Enough of being sensitive to the feelings of others in politics, already! That’s for your spouse and children, family and friends. Not the opposition party.

  8. The_Real_JeffS says:

    It’s a bad idea to seize on a death or debility as a political opportunity. That’s how this will be seen.
    Rob, I do understand your point. It’s just that I don’t care how “this will be seen”. Enough of being sensitive to the feelings of others in politics, already! That’s for your spouse and children, family and friends. Not the opposition party.

  9. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Sorry about the double post, the servers are giving me fits!!!!!

  10. Rove and Bush will get blamed anyway. If it comes to pass that a Republican is named as a replacement, then the Left can claim the GOP stole an election AND a senate majority.

  11. On further thought, why does it have to be this poor guy? Why can’t Ted the Red Nosed Senator go on a drinking binge and have a problem?

    Just what kinda pact with the devil did his liver make anyway to have survived this long?

  12. Mr. Bingley says:

    There must be a space alien in there, PT, who comes from a planet whose atmosphere is liquid alcohol.
    A planet I’d love to visit.

  13. Rob says:

    Ahh, Thunderbird. The el cheapo drunk we indulged in as kids was Bali Hai. Like adding alcohol to Koolaid. 64 cents for 4/5 of a quart (aka a fifth). My stomach churns just thinking about it.

  14. Crusader says:

    I didn’t think it was a planet, I just thought it was called Boones Farm…….

  15. The_Real_JeffS says:

    We preferred Everclear, cut with cheap grape juice to reduce its combustible properties.

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