politics

Recovering From a Stroke, Sen. Ben Ray Lujan Says He'll Return Within Weeks to Vote on Supreme Court Pick

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  • Sen. Ben Ray Lujan said in a video released Sunday that his recovery from a stroke in late January is going well.
  • The New Mexico Democrat said he will be back in Washington in "a few short weeks" to vote on President Joe Biden's Supreme Court nominee.
  • Until Lujan returns in person, Democrats do not have the 50 votes needed to confirm a nominee on a party-line vote, giving Republicans potential veto power over their choice.

WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, who suffered a stroke in late January, said in a video released Sunday that he will be back in Washington in "a few short weeks" to vote on President Joe Biden's Supreme Court nominee.

"I'm doing well. I'm strong. I'm back on the road to recovery, and I'm going to make a full recovery," Lujan said in the video released by his office.

Flanked by his doctors, Lujan said he would spend the next few weeks at an inpatient rehabilitation facility in New Mexico following major surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.

"I'm proud to report, then I'll be back on the floor of the United States Senate in just a few short weeks to vote on important legislation and to consider a Supreme Court nominee," he added.

For the past two weeks, Lujan's team has revealed nothing about his condition, resulting in speculation that he might be unable to return to the Senate anytime soon.

In the video released Sunday, Lujan's doctors said he was treated in the neurosciences critical care unit of the University of New Mexico Hospital, where they performed decompression surgery. This involves removing a piece of the patient's skull in order to create additional space for the brain.

Given the evenly divided Senate, Lujan's stroke complicated Democrats' efforts to quickly appoint a successor to retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Without Lujan's presence in the Senate, Democrats would not have had the 50 votes needed to confirm a replacement on a party-line vote, effectively giving Republicans veto power over their choice.

President Joe Biden said he expects to announce his nominee by the end of this month. The president has vowed to pick a Black woman to replace Breyer, and he plans to interview several prospective nominees in the coming week.

Unlike the House, which has changed the rules to allow members to vote by proxy during the pandemic, the Senate has made no such change. Unless a senator is present, in person at the time of the vote, they cannot cast a vote.

Sunday's video marked the first time Lujan has been seen or heard from since news of the stroke was released via a statement from his office on Feb. 1.

The statement revealed that Lujan had suffered the stroke five days earlier, raising questions about why it took that long for his office to disclose his condition.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was unaware of Lujan's stroke until reporters told him about it after the statement was released.

"Oh my God," Durbin reportedly said upon learning of Lujan's condition.

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