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Senator Luján of New Mexico suffers stroke, expected to make ‘full recovery,’ office says

Senator Ben Ray Lujan in September 2021.Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico is expected to make a full recovery after suffering a stroke and being hospitalized last week, when he began to experience dizziness and fatigue, according to his chief of staff.

The 49-year-old Democrat checked himself into a hospital in Santa Fe on Thursday. His chief of staff, Carlos Sanchez, said the senator was then transferred to a hospital in Albuquerque for further evaluation.

“Senator Luján was found to have suffered a stroke in the cerebellum, affecting his balance,” the statement released Tuesday said. “As part of his treatment plan, he subsequently underwent decompressive surgery to ease swelling.”

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His office added that Luján is still in the hospital but is expected to make a full recovery.

It was initially unclear when Lujan would return to the Senate and what impact his absence would have.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters he was anticipating Lujan’s “quick return to the Senate,” adding, “I believe the Senate will be able to carry forward with its business.”

But in Lujan’s absence, Democrats would have just 49 votes compared to Republicans’ 50, assuming all other senators are healthy. There might be instances in which Democrats would lack the votes needed to approve legislation or nominations over unanimous GOP opposition.

Democrats will retain majority control of the chamber because its membership is divided 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast tie-breaking votes.

New Mexico’s other senator, Democrat Martin Heinrich, sent his regards to Luján. “I know that all of my fellow Senators and our constituents in New Mexico join me in sending our best wishes to him, his family, and his staff,” he wrote in a tweet.

The surgery Luján underwent is a decompressive craniectomy, which temporarily removes a piece of the skull to allow a swelling brain room to expand.

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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.

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Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.