It looks like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) is not going to join President Donald Trump’s cabinet as energy secretary. Such a move would have freed his senate seat for the Republican governor of his state to appoint a GOP replacement and thus provide a 50th vote to repeal and replace Obamacare. Fortunately, another path for the 50th vote has opened up, according to Hot Air.

Robert Menendez may be leaving the Senate involuntarily

It looks like the corruption trial of Sen. Robert Menendez is slated to begin in about three weeks. If the trial results in a conviction, then Menendez will be obliged to resign his senate seat.

Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, will likely appoint a fellow Republican to occupy the seat until the 2018 midterm elections. Then Mitch McConnell can bring up the so-called “skinny” Obamacare Repeal and Replace, and, if no one else gets cold feet, pass it this time.

Of course, everything depends on the trial concluding before Christie leaves office in January. Menendez could try to stretch things out with delaying tactics during the trial. On the other hand, he has every incentive to cut a deal because the man who supplied the graft, Salomon Melgen, has already been convicted of various crimes and faces a 30 year stretch in jail. If Menendez does cop a plea, he will be on his way out of the Senate with more than enough time for Christie to choose his replacement.

Can McConnell pull it out?

Everything depends on Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell getting his caucus together and voting for the skinny repeal and replace bill. The last time the measure got to the floor it failed by one vote, thanks, many believe, to the treachery of Sen. John McCain. McCain will likely not even be asked to attend the vote.

He is dealing with a likely deadly cancer and needs to direct his full attention to the matter.

Even if no other Republican senator gets cold feet and switches his or her vote, the measure will go to conference to be reconciled with the House version of repeal and replace. Unless the House simply decides to pass the Senate version, the conference committee will have to craft a legislative product that can pass both houses of Congress.

It is by no means certain that the congressional Republicans can manage it. Nevertheless, if victory can be snatched from the jaws of defeat, the passage of anything that can be called repeal and replace will constitute a victory for an administration that sorely needs one right now.