New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg's passing Monday gives Gov. Chris Christie a juicy opportunity to help Republicans cut into the Democratic majority in the Senate. But one can't rule out that he'll name a Democrat.
The passing of five-term Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey marks the end of an era. He was the oldest member of the Senate, its last World War II veteran, and a beloved figure among New Jersey Democrats.
It also deals a potential political blow to President Obama. Under New Jersey law, the governor appoints a replacement to fill a Senate vacancy until the next general election. That means Gov. Chris Christie – a Republican – has a juicy opportunity to turn a Democratic seat Republican during a crucial legislative period. Immigration reform is on the line this summer. The Democrats would still control the Senate, though by a narrower margin, 54 to 46.
It’s just one seat, but in this hyperpartisan time on Capitol Hill, every vote counts. These days, for just about anything to make it through the Senate, 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster. If Senator Lautenberg is replaced by a Republican, then the Democrats will need to find six Republicans to get to 60 instead of five, and that’s after getting every Democrat on board (not always easy).