No, Sen. Joe Manchin isn't going to become Energy secretary — the dream scenario some White House officials had for replacing a Democratic senator with a Republican, thereby gaining the 50th vote for Affordable Care Act repeal. But the New York Times reports that there's another, not totally implausible scenario — because Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez is going on trial soon on federal corruption charges.
- If the New Jersey senator is convicted, he could resign, or the Senate could vote to expel him (it would take two thirds of the Senate to throw him out).
- Either way, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would appoint his replacement — who would almost certainly be a Republican.
- The odds: It's really not knowable until the trial begins and we get a better sense of the case against Menendez. For now, it's just another “what if" scenario. But it's not impossible.