Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján, who recently suffered a stroke, will be back in the Senate in 4-6 weeks, “barring any complications,” according to a person close to the senator.
If the New Mexico Democrat is back in Washington in that time frame, Democrats will likely still be able to proceed with their current plans for a swift vetting process and confirmation of President Joe Biden’s forthcoming Supreme Court nominee. Senate Democrats have so far been signaling for now they won’t slow down or alter plans to swiftly vet and confirm a nominee, despite the senator’s absence.
Democrats control a 50-50 partisan split in the Senate and need a simple majority to confirm Supreme Court nominees.
Luján’s office announced this week that he is expected to make a full recovery.
Democratic leaders are projecting confidence they will not have to change their plans or timeline to process a nomination.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, told reporters on Wednesday that Luján’s absence will not affect his timing of the hearing for the Supreme Court nominee — and he said he has no indication of when the senator might return.
“No, we don’t need anticipate any difficulties,” Durbin said. “We just hope he gets back real soon.”
He said “there was no indication” that Luján will be gone for the length of time that then-Sen. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, was out when he suffered a stoke in 2012 and was gone for about a year.
Democrats have already seen firsthand the constraints of their narrow majority in the Senate. One recent high-profile example came when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he would not support Biden’s proposed Build Back Better Act, effectively putting an end to months of negotiations over a bill that would need the support of all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus in order to pass.
Luján’s absence is already impacting some Senate business.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, the chairwoman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, told CNN on Wednesday morning that the panel will have to hold off on voting on Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn and Federal Trade Commission nominee Alvaro Bedoya until Luján has recovered and returned to DC.
“We’ll have to wait until Senator Luján gets back,” she said. Neither nominee is likely to garner any Republican support.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has been looking at a quick time frame to confirm a nominee similar to the timeline Republicans employed to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett, said Wednesday that as Lujań recovers, the Senate “will continue to move forward in carrying out its business.” He said he’ll stay in communication with the New Mexico Democrat’s staff.
“In the days to come, we will continue working and communicating with Senator Lujań’s staff about his recovery process,” Schumer said. “All of us are hopeful and optimistic that he will be back to his old self before long. In the meantime, the US Senate will continue to move forward in carrying out its business on behalf of the American people.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed his hopes for a quick recovery for the New Mexico Democrat on Wednesday.
“It was encouraging to read that our friend and colleague is expected to make a full recovery,” he said. “I know that all 99 of his colleagues are thinking of him every day, rooting for a swift and smooth recovery, and already looking forward to the next time we see him.”
Sen. Martin Heinrich reaffirmed Wednesday that his fellow New Mexico Democrat suffered a “mild” stroke, but bristled when CNN asked if Lujań was talking, walking and in good shape.
“You know, like, you guys are unbelievable. You really are. Like, I would suggest you talk to his staff,” Heinrich said as he boarded an elevator in the Capitol.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Wednesday.
CNN’s Morgan Rimmer and Paul LeBlanc contributed.