New Mexico Sen. Luján May Return in 4-6 Weeks After Stroke, Says Aide

White House sidesteps Senate majority doubts
By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
February 3, 2022Updated: February 3, 2022

New Mexico Sen. Ben Luján (D-N.M.) is expected to make a full recovery and return to the Senate in four to six weeks after suffering a stroke and undergoing surgery, his office said on Wednesday.

Luján, 49, was hospitalized last week after he began to experience dizziness and fatigue, and doctors found that he had suffered a stroke. Barring complications, the Democrat is expected to return to work, an aide to the senator told media outlets including The Washington Post.

A day earlier, his office in a statement said he underwent decompressive surgery to ease swelling after he was found to have suffered a stroke in the cerebellum, affecting his balance. The surgery temporarily removes a piece of the skull to allow a swollen brain room to expand.

Carlos Sanchez, Luján’s chief of staff, said the senator was “resting comfortably” at UNM Hospital in Albuquerque and is “expected to make a full recovery.”

News of his hospitalization and absence from the Senate prompted lawmakers to point out that the Democrats, for now, no longer have a razor thin majority in the Senate. The chamber is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast tie-breaking votes.

When pressed on Wednesday whether Luján’s absence will delay President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki sidestepped the question.

The White House has “all been thinking of Sen. Lujan and his family,” Psaki said.

“I know his team put out an update on his recovery last night, and he’s 49 years old,” she told reporters at a press briefing. “So, I would also note that, but I would point you to them for any specifics on his status. Of course, we’re thinking about him, his family, his entire team, at this point in time.”

She added, ”Well, life is precious, as we know. You are most familiar with the average age of senators in the Senate, but that is true on both sides of the aisle.”

“I would just say, we spend most of our time engaging in good faith about the president’s agenda and not making those calculations.”

Luján sits on the Commerce Committee, which had hoped to push through Biden appointments on Wednesday, including Federal Communications Commission (FCC) nominee Gigi B. Sohn and Federal Trade Commission nominee (FTC) Alvaro M. Bedoya—which would have shifted the partisan balance of the federal agencies to Democrats, according to The Post.

The Senate Commerce Committee delayed the vote on the nominees following news of Luján’s illness.

Luján won the Senate seat in 2020 after serving six terms in the House, where he was a trusted ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As one of the highest-ranking Latinos in Congress, Luján led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s arm that supports House candidates, in the 2016 and 2018 elections.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.