Pray for Johnson
Johnson has undergone surgery for bleeding in the brain. However it wasn't a classic stroke, but rather due to a congenital defect which causes abnormal growth of a of blood vessels. The surgery was said to be successful, in large part because he got prompt diagnosis and attention, and he is expected to make a full recovery. From MSNBC:
Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson was in critical condition recovering from emergency brain surgery Thursday, creating political drama over whether his illness could cost Democrats newly won control of the Senate.News is still sketchy and unclear as to what Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson suffered from earlier today, but to say a lot rides on his condition would be an understatement.
The South Dakota senator, 59, suffered from bleeding in the brain caused by a congenital malformation, the U.S. Capitol physician said. He described the surgery as successful.
The condition, usually present at birth, causes tangled blood vessels that can burst.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he had visited Johnson in the hospital Thursday morning and that he was confident of a full recovery.
Asked about whether Democratic control of the Senate might be jeopardized, Reid said, "There isn't a thing that's changed."
Reid refused to comment on Johnson's medical condition, declining to even answer a question on whether the senator was conscious. "To me he looked very good," Reid said.
"The senator is recovering without complication," said Adm. John Eisold, the Capitol physician. "It is premature to determine whether further surgery will be required or to assess any long-term prognosis."
Eisold said doctors drained the blood that had accumulated in Johnson's brain and stopped continued bleeding.
Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota was hospitalized Wednesday, weeks before his party was to take control of the Senate by a one-vote margin. But by evening, his condition was unclear, with conflicting reports over whether he had suffered a stroke.
The one thing that appeared to be true was that Johnson had some undiagnosed illness that has left him with difficulty speaking and moving. The Washington Post reported that Johnson was undergoing surgery.
Johnson, who turns 60 on Dec. 28, was admitted to George Washington University Hospital, said Julianne Fisher, Johnson's communications director. The illness was initially thought to be a stroke.
Johnson became disoriented during a conference call with reporters at midday Wednesday, stuttering in response to a question. He appeared to recover, asking if there were any additional questions before ending the call.
Fisher said he walked back to his Capitol office after the call with reporters but appeared to not be feeling well. The Capitol physician was called, and Johnson was taken by ambulance to George Washington University Hospital for evaluation.
A statement released by Johnson's office then said, in part, "At this stage, he is undergoing a comprehensive evaluation by the stroke team. Further details will be forthcoming when more is known."
Filling a vacated Senate seat
Democrats won a 51-49 majority in the November election. South Dakota’s Republican governor, Mike Rounds, would appoint a replacement to serve until the 2008 election should Johnson die or resign.
The appointment would last until the next general election — in this case, 2008. Johnson's term expires that year.
The 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says state legislatures can give their governors the power to appoint someone else to take over, but only in the case of "vacancies."
What's a vacancy? Clearly death or resignation, but history suggests not much else. Serious illness doesn't count.
Under the rules of the Senate, tie votes are settled by the vote of the vice president — currently Republican Dick Cheney — effectively giving control of the Senate to the Republicans.