- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2006

Sen. Tim Johnson remained in critical condition last night from surgery to relieve bleeding inside his brain and untangle a malformation of arteries, although doctors and aides said his recovery from the major surgery was going on “without complication.”

The South Dakota Democrat, who turns 60 this month, “was found to have had an intracerebral bleed caused by a congenital arteriovenous malformation,” said Adm. John Eisold, the attending physician of the U.S. Capitol. “He underwent successful surgery to evacuate the blood and stabilize the malformation.”

During a brief press conference yesterday morning, incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had spent much of the previous 24 hours at George Washington University Hospital with Mr. Johnson, said the senator “looks great.” He declined to answer any specific medical questions.

Late yesterday afternoon, Dr. Eisold issued another statement saying that Mr. Johnson, “has continued to have an uncomplicated post-operative course. Specifically, he has been appropriately responsive to both word and touch.”

It is premature, he said, “to determine whether further surgery will be required or to assess any long-term prognosis.”

The senator also underwent an additional procedure to prevent blood clots, which Johnson spokeswoman Julianne Fisher said was standard after the surgery. His office also said Mr. Johnson was responsive to his wife’s voice.

It is also premature, aides on Capitol Hill said, to determine what affect Mr. Johnson’s ailment might have on the Senate, where Democrats will enjoy a 51-49 caucus advantage over Republicans when the next session of Congress begins next month.

If Mr. Johnson becomes unable to continue serving as the senior senator from South Dakota, a replacement would be named by the state’s Republican governor, Michael Rounds. If Mr. Rounds were to choose a Republican as a replacement, it would give the party — with Vice President Dick Cheney’s tie-breaking vote — a one-seat advantage.

Well before Mr. Johnson’s illness surfaced Wednesday during a telephone interview with reporters, Senate Republicans had been negotiating with Democrats about the exact wording of the organizing resolution that is the first vote by the Senate and establishes ground rules for how the Senate operates.

Normally, there is no provision to allow control to change hands in mid-Congress — even if the party that controls the chamber, for some reason, loses its majority.

In 2001, the last time the Senate teetered on such a narrow margin, Republicans allowed a clause to be included in the organizing resolution that would change control of the chamber if they lost their slim majority. A few months later, when Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont quit the Republican Party and caucused with Democrats, that clause gave Democrats control of the chamber.

Senate Republicans have argued to include the same clause in the upcoming organizing resolution but dropped any public reference to it since Mr. Johnson became ill. Yesterday, they were steering reporters’ questions away from any calculations about any change in power.

Incoming Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, issued a statement “on the recovery of” Mr. Johnson.

“I know all my Senate colleagues join me in praying for Senator Johnson’s full and speedy recovery,” he said. “Our thoughts are with his wife, Barbara, and his family during this time.”

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