U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg missed work, on doctors orders, for the entire month of March. On Friday he released a statement saying he will not return to Washington on Monday as the Senate convenes after a two week recess, according to reports in The Star Ledger and Politico.
“I regret that I will not be returning to Washington next week as I continue treatment for, and recuperate from, muscle weakness and fatigue. My physician continues to advise me to work from home and not travel at this time,” Lautenberg said in a statement issued by his office.
Lautenberg added: “I am disappointed I will not be present for the opening of the debate on gun legislation in the Senate. It is an issue I am deeply passionate about, and my victories over the gun lobby are among my proudest accomplishments. I am, however, gratified that my legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines will be one of the key amendments offered to this bill.”
Lautenberg will also miss the confirmation of U.S. Magistrate Patty Shwartz to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, a nomination that was initially blocked by New Jersey’s junior senator, Bob Menendez.
“I have worked hard since Judge Shwartz’s nomination by President Obama toward her confirmation, and I am confident that she will be confirmed by a strong majority of my colleagues,” Lautenberg said.
Lautenberg, 89, announced in February that he would not seek reelection in 2014.
Should the senate seat become vacant on or before August 27, New Jersey’s election law requires that a successor be elected in the November general election. If a vacancy occurs after August 27, the next election for the seat would be on schedule in November of 2014, unless the governor calls for a special election sooner. Governor Christie could appoint a temporary senator or leave the seat vacant.
19:3-26. Vacancies in United States senate; election to fill; temporary appointment by governor.
19:3-26. If a vacancy shall happen in the representation of this State in the United States senate, it shall be filled at the general election next succeeding the happening thereof, unless such vacancy shall happen within 70 days next preceding such election, in which case it shall be filled by election at the second succeeding general election, unless the governor of this State shall deem it advisable to call a special election therefor, which he is authorized hereby to do.
The governor of this State may make a temporary appointment of a senator of the United States from this State whenever a vacancy shall occur by reason of any cause other than the expiration of the term; and such appointee shall serve as such senator until a special election or general election shall have been held pursuant to law and the Board of State Canvassers can deliver to his successor a certificate of election.
amended 2011, c.37, s.37.
One would think that Republicans would celebrate the opportunity of Christie appointing a U.S. Senator. New Jersey has not had a Republican in the U.S. Senate since 1982 when Governor Tom Kean appointed Nicholas Brady to fill Harrison Williams unexpired term. Williams resigned rather than be expelled after being convicted in the Abscam scandal. Republicans have not elected a U.S. Senator from New Jersey since 1972 when Clifford Case was last elected. But adding a Senate race to this year’s general election could change the dynamic of the campaign which so far looks as though it will be a blow out for Christie over State Senator Barbara Buono . Trenton Republicans are hoping that Christie’s coattails and Democrats lack of enthusiasm for Buono can jettison them into majority of one or both houses of the State Legislature.
Adding a Democrat Cory Booker vs Republican Tom Kean Jr, Joe Kyrillos or Geraldo Rivera Senate contest into the mix of the campaign could bring otherwise unenthusiastic Democrats out to vote with down ballot support. Or, would Christie’s coattails be strong enough to propel the Republican nominee to victory over Booker, assuming Booker is the Democratic nominee to replace Lautenberg. Booker is leading the polls to replace Lautenberg by a wide margin. Most pundits think the power of Christie’s coattails for the legislature will be nil anyway, given the composition of the legislative map.
Republican’s best chance of winning the Senate seat in an election would probably come as a result of Lautenberg retiring after the August 27 deadline to trigger an election this November, but before the end of 2013. That would give the new Republican incumbent that Christie chooses a leg up in raising money and name recognition for a 2014 race against Booker.