Not to be morbid or insensitive, but the succession of Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat got us thinking about another Democrat among the 60 probably needed to push through health care reform.

Sen. Robert Byrd, 91, was just released from a hospital after taking a bad fall. His health has been a frequent object of gossip and worry. In January 2009, Wikipedia falsely reported his death.

Byrd was hospitalized in May and then again in June but returned to the Senate, where he voted and spoke.

We hope he keeps on ticking for another 91 years, but if this tough old Byrd flies the coop, what would happen to the Democrats’ crucial 60-seat majority?

According to the West Virginia secretary of state’s Web site, “Vacancies in the U.S. Senate are filled by appointment of the Governor.” The state’s governor is Joe Manchin, a Democrat who would almost certainly appoint a Democrat to replace Byrd if necessary.

It should be noted that having 60 Democrats in the Senate does not mean having 60 votes for cloture in the event of a filibuster against health care reform. There are plenty of Democrats in that body who would like to see reform defeated.

Although Robert Byrd was once elected Exalted Cyclops of his Ku Klux Klan chapter, he has spent decades working against his racist past. His speeches in opposition to the Iraq war made him a hero to many. — PS

[Thanks, Ryan]

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