Friday, February 19, 2010

Frank Lautenberg Diagnosed With Cancer

We were concerned earlier this week that this might be the case:

“After several days of hospitalization and testing, Senator Lautenberg’s doctors have diagnosed that he has a B-Cell Lymphoma of the stomach,” his office said in a statement. “This is a curable tumor, and will require treatment over the next few months.”

In a statement distributed by Mr. Lautenberg’s office, Dr. Holland said: “We expect a full and complete recovery for Senator Lautenberg. The Senator will be treated with chemotherapy administered approximately every three weeks. We anticipate that he will receive between six and eight treatments, and in between treatments, the senator is expected to be back at work in the Senate.”

That's good. As we say so often here, wishing for your opponents death, or cheering the guy who flies planes into IRS buildings, is out of bounds, and not just because it's in poor taste. Liberalism needs to be defeated in the public forum, in the battleground of ideas, for it to be effectively killed off as a political philosophy. Otherwise it returns, with ten heads instead of three, and quicker than you might have ever imagined.

That being said, Lautenberg's illness does pose a bit of a further governance problem for the Democrats:

But the prospect even of intermittent absences by Mr. Lautenberg creates an even bigger obstacle for Senate Democrats, who continue to struggle against Republican opposition to carry out their legislative agenda. Senate Republicans now control 41 seats, enough to effectively filibuster most legislation if their caucus remains unified. Overcoming filibusters requires the approval of 60 senators to cut off debate.

And now the Democrats may have one less. No doubt Lautenberg is overall in better shape than your average 86 year-old, what with his access to Senate health care and all. But chemo is brutal, and even intermittent treatments like the doctors seem to be prescribing can suck the life energy out of a younger and more hale individual than Lautenberg (if you've seen someone go thru it, no further need be said). How often will he be able to carry out his duties, and will the Democrats be able to get two Republicans to flip to end filibusters? Even further, will it hamper their scheme to jam health-care reform down America's throat via reconciliation? Even getting 51 votes may be tougher than originally thought...

We wish Senator Lautenberg a speedy recovery. And yet we doubt we will see any resignation, regardless of the Senator's condition, as he is extremely wedded to his position and power to let anything short of death tear it from him (see Kennedy, Ted). So Jersey will be less represented in the Senate, which may or may not be a good thing, as Lautenberg's voting patterns have become strikingly less representative of his state over the last two years. And Bob Menendez (D-La Raza)? He'll be lucky if he isn't recalled....

Should the unfortunate inevitable strike down Frank Lautenberg, expect to see Governor Chris Christie quickly name State Senator Joe Kyrillos to be the interim replacement. The campaign manager who oversaw the Christie win is a common-touch Republican in the mold of the governor, somewhat known in New Jersey (and that's the best you can hope for as a Republican in this state), and much beloved by his middle-class constituents. With Christie's popularity soaring, no one, save for the liberal pundocracy, will revolt against a Republican Senatorial pick.

We'll update this story as it unfolds...

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