Senator Johnson's recovery smooth

Published: Wednesday December 13, 2006
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The Associated Press is reporting that Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) is "in critical condition" after successful surgery following a brain hemorrhage.

However, the Senator is reportedly recovering well, having thus far suffered no unexpected complications. A statement issued by Johnson's congressional office indicates that the lawmaker is recovering well:

Senator Tim Johnson has continued to have an uncomplicated post-operative course. Specifically, he has been appropriately responsive to both word and touch. No further surgical intervention has been required.

The condition was reportedly caused by an "arteriovenous malformation, a condition which causes arteries and veins to grow abnormally large."

Various news outlets initially indicated that the Senator may have suffered a mild stroke. Earlier, a call from RAW STORY to Johnson's office was not returned, but his office did issue a statement to the press relating that Johnson was taken to George Washington Hospital for evaluation.

Johnson is not the only lawmaker with troubled health. GOP Rep. Mike Castle, Delaware's lone House representative, suffered two minor strokes during the 2006 election season, but recovered sufficiently to retain his office. Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) has been diagnosed with leukemia, but continues to work.

The Senator will turn 60 on December 29.

Power in the balance

Concerns had been raised that the Democrats' new Senate power would be at risk, should Johnson be too incapacitated to perform his duties. If he were to be forced into retirement, the US Constitution delegates the task of appointing a replacement to South Dakota lawmakers, who often turn that task over to the governor. The governor of the state, Mike Rounds, is a Republican, and both houses of the state legislature are dominated by Republicans.

However, in the case of South Dakota, the decision falls to Rounds, whose appointment would serve as senator until a special election held between 80 and 90 days after the vacancy.

A different statute, though, says that the election would take place in 2008, adding that, "The general election laws shall apply unless inconsistent with this chapter."

It is unclear at this time which of these seemingly conflicting procedures takes precedence over the other.