To sum up what is happening:
- The Democrats won a bare margin, taking 51 of 100 seats
- Democratic Senator Tim Johnson (last elected in 2002, up for election in 2008) has suffered a condition involving bleeding in the brain and is currently incapacitated
- If Sen. Johnson leaves his seat, by death or resignation, the Governor of South Dakota appoints his replacement. The Governor is a Republican and standard practice is for him to appoint a member of his own party and the South Dakota Secretary of State has already indicated that this would be the course of action taken.
- A 50-50 tie in the Senate would make a Senate Republican majority because US Vice President Dick Cheney is the President of Senate and votes to break ties
This all looks pretty grim for Democratic control of the US legislative branch but fear not. I hate to be morbid but, unless Sen. Johnson dies, all is well. Senators cannot be removed from office for being ill and Johnson would remain in his seat until 2008 unless he conciously resigned. Though he could not show up to vote if he was incapacitated, it would still leave Democrats with a 50-49 majority.