Senator Frank Lautenberg issued the following statement:
"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 is 89, had the flu in December, and was diagnosed in 2010 with b-cell lymphoma, which is ostensibly in remission. There is no information on when or if he will return. It's unclear whether or not he is physically able to come to DC just for a vote. If he could travel, he would not be the first Senator rolled into the chamber on a stretcher for an important vote.
The Senator has had a long and illustrious career, and will not be seeking re-election in 2014. The likely replacement will be Cory Booker, superhero, and current Newark mayor.
There's no doubt the the Senator's health is precarious. Then again, he can retain his seat and not show up at all. Ever. There are senators who have taken long absences for illness, most recently Mark Kirk after his stroke.
But perhaps he will resign. If he gives up his seat before the end of August, 2013, then a special election would be held concurrently with the November election. From August to November, Chris Christie's handpicked interim appointment would hold the seat. However, if he resigns after that, Christie's seat holder would be in place until after the November, 2014 election.
From a strictly political perspective, the best course of action would be for him to resign on the last possible day in August, having previously primed Cory Booker to be in place to run. No doubt Booker is already developing his team for next year. The chances of Cory being able to win this November, no matter who Christie appoints is very high, especially if Lautenberg endorses.
The fear is that his health does not improve, and he resigns (or, sadly, dies) after the 2013 deadline. That would make Booker's election more difficult in 2014.
Frank Lautenberg is an honourable man. He's the last WW2 vet serving in the Senate, and its oldest member. His legislative history is one about which he can be very proud. It's time for him to take care of himself, spend as much time as possible with his wife, children, grandchildren, relatives and friends.