Takes Leave of Absence from Committee Overseeing Holt Election Reform Bill...
By Brad Friedman on 4/18/2007, 1:16pm PT  

Prior to the Easter Congressional recess, there was a great deal of speculation as to why the scheduled mark-up for the Holt Election Reform Bill (HR811) had been delayed until after recess in the U.S. House Administration Committee.

Among reasons for the delay, The BRAD BLOG had heard from various Hill staffers that chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA) had come down with the flu. Another staffer said the issue was due to a failure by Microsoft to present promised information on problems with the software disclosure portions of the bill. Some Election Integrity activists had attributed the postponement to their phone and fax campaign warning lawmakers about perceived dangers in the bill.

While we've been unable to confirm that any of those reasons specifically caused delay of mark-up for the controversial bill, The Hill is reporting today that Millender-McDonald has been diagnosed with cancer and will now be taking a leave of absence through late May...

Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) has been diagnosed with cancer and will take a leave of absence from Congress until May 25, well-placed staffers told The Hill yesterday.

There are no details yet about what type of cancer the lawmaker is suffering from, or what stage it is in. Her office would not comment.

On Monday, Millender-McDonald, who is chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, requested a leave of absence from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), according to one source.

Millender-McDonald’s absence puts her panel’s agenda and leadership in doubt; 92 bills have been referred to the committee this Congress.

It's unclear how the Congresswoman's illness will affect the future of HR811, which had previously been on a fast-track in the committee despite a heated behind-the-scenes battle over a number of controversial provisions, including the allowance for the use of dangerous Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen voting systems and the first-time permanent funding of the controversial U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which has recently faced a great deal of criticism on a number of levels (as reported previously here, here, and elsewhere).

It's also unclear today who will take Millender-McDonald's place as chair of the committee during her absence.

The Hill reports that Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA) would be the next highest ranking Democrat on the committee, though he's currently involved in a mayoral race in Philadelphia. Next in line would be California's Rep. Zoe Lofgren who currently chairs the committee's subcommittee on Elections.

The well-read Congressional publication also reports that Millender-McDonald may have already been a known issue back in 2005...

Last year, Millender-McDonald’s son R. Keith McDonald, who was serving a 41-month prison sentence for political corruption charges, cited her illness as reason to grant a furlough, according to local news reports. The District Court judge granted him a six-month emergency release to care for his mother, wife and children.

At the time, Millender-McDonald would not comment on her condition.

In 2005, her office confirmed that she had undergone major surgery, but would not disclose her illness, news reports stated.

The BRAD BLOG wishes the Congresswoman a full and speedy recovery.