- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 17, 2006

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said several leading Republican lawmakers have promised Sen. Tim Johnson all the time he needs to recover from last week’s brain surgery.

The South Dakota Democrat suffered a brain hemorrhage Wednesday and has been hospitalized in critical condition since. If he is unable to return to the Senate, South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican, could then appoint a Republican to take his place. If that happens, control of the Senate would return to the Republicans, who were voted out of power in this year’s midterm elections.

“Let me say this. I’ve spoken to Mitch McConnell, my Republican counterpart,” Mr. Reid told ABC’s “This Week.” “I spent a lot of time with Trent Lott on Friday, and all members of the Senate are praying for Tim. He has been such an exemplary senator. People of South Dakota love him. We love him. He’s going to be just fine.”

“And the Republicans signaling they’re going to give him all the time he needs?” asked host George Stephanopoulos.

“Oh, yes, they have been just so thoughtful and considerate,” Mr. Reid said.

While refusing to speculate on whether Mr. Johnson’s health will permit him to return to the Senate, Mr. Reid said that Mr. Johnson’s condition has improved and said “everything is going to be just fine.”

Mr. Johnson’s spokesman, Noah Pinegar, told the Associated Press yesterday that the senator remains in critical condition.

“The goal has been rest,” Mr. Pinegar said.

Mr. Reid was also asked whether he had assurances that Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, would caucus with the Democrats in a scenario where his vote could tip the balance of power to one party or the other. Mr. Lieberman was defeated in his state’s Democratic primary over the summer and has said he is still upset that many leading Democrats revoked their support for him after the loss.

“I’ve talked to Joe. Joe is my friend, close personal friend,” Mr. Reid said. “There is no question that he’s caucused with us, will vote with us 90 percent of the time, as he always has.”

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