(Headline USA) Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy was taken to a hospital Tuesday evening after not feeling well, a spokesman said, hours after the 80-year-old Democrat began presiding over the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
Leahy, who’d been in his Capitol office, was taken to the hospital “out of an abundance of caution” after being examined by Congress’ attending physician, Leahy spokesman David Carle said.
However, the delicate 50–50 balance of the Senate means that any absences could impede the agenda on an array of issues, including Cabinet confirmations and the upcoming impeachment trial, for which Leahy was tapped to play a significant role.
Should Leahy be unable to retain his seat due to illness, the task of appointing a replacement would fall to Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican.
In the absence of Senate president Kamala Harris, Leahy had been presiding over the impeachment trial as the Senate’s president pro tempore, a largely ceremonial post, although it is also fourth in line for the presidency.
Leahy had commenced his role of overseeing Trump’s latest impeachment trial by swearing in his fellow lawmakers. The actual trial will begin next month.
It remained unclear whether Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over Trump’s first impeachment trial, might step in to fulfill the duty again, as outlined in the Constitution.
The Senate president pro tempore job normally goes to the longest-serving member of the Senate’s majority party. Leahy was first elected in 1974, making him the longest-serving current senator of either party.
Carle’s statement did not name the hospital to which Leahy was taken or provide further detail about his condition.
Leahy will be chairman once again this year of the Senate Appropriations Committee, a panel that controls a large chunk of the federal budget and will be in the middle of President Joe Biden’s effort to provide more spending to combat the pandemic and recharge the economy.
Leahy is the fifth-oldest current senator. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., 87, is the oldest.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press