Senator Johnson Update

Senator Johnson underwent surgery last night, although no one is saying what made him ill. If they’re operating on him, I assume the doctors have a theory.

More on Senator Johnson from today’s New York Times:

An unassuming fourth-generation South Dakotan, Mr. Johnson was first elected to the Senate in 1996, after serving 10 years in the House, where he had replaced Tom Daschle, a fellow Democrat who ran for the Senate and ultimately became the majority leader.

Mr. Johnson faced a tough race in 2002 against John Thune, a Republican. With the state suffering billions of dollars in losses from a severe drought, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Daschle promised $5 billion in drought relief, and Mr. Johnson won narrowly after President Bush visited the state for Mr. Thune and declined to announce that he would support the relief. (Mr. Thune went on to beat Mr. Daschle in 2004.)

Mr. Johnson is up for re-election in 2008. His oldest son, Brooks, served in Afghanistan and is serving in Iraq.

Click here for Senator Johnson’s biography on his web site.

My understanding is that if the Senator survives he is under no obligation to resign from the Senate, even if he is impaired. Back to the New York Times:

He is the second senator known to become ill since the November elections. Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming, a Republican, is being treated for leukemia, but has been at work.

According to information from the Senate historian cited on, at least nine senators have taken extended absences from the Senate for health reasons since 1942. Robert F. Wagner, Democrat of New York, was unable to attend any sessions of the 80th or 81st Congress from 1947 to 1949 because of a heart ailment. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, missed about seven months in 1988 after surgery for a brain aneurysm. And David Pryor, Democrat of Arkansas, suffered a heart attack in April 1991 and returned to the Senate in September that year.

The Right has decided it’s indelicate to even mention the significant political consequences of losing Senator Johnson. In fact, posts about Senator Johnson on rightie blogs this morning are so consistently conciliatory about the Senator one wonders if they were all on the same conference call with someone from the RNC.

It is of course quite possible to be genuinely concerned about the Senator as a person and worried about the political consequences of his death or resignation at the same time. This is especially true for those of us who fear that if the Senate stays in Republican control our country will be significantly impaired. Here’s another New York Times story about something that won’t happen if the GOP stays in charge, for example. If it’s indelicate to be gravely concerned about the future of the United States of America, then I will be indelicate.

8 thoughts on “Senator Johnson Update

  1. I’m thinking it’s a blocked artery. I’ve heard you make a full recovery and do fine. He may have to take meds but, he should be okay if that is what it is.
    My mom had heart attack symptoms and had surgery and it was that and she is great and 100 percent. she takes one med and that is all. she was doing great the next day.

  2. The first thing on my mind is that the senator should be tested for poisons.I distrust the righties THAT much.They are the “end justifies the means” party and given the death and destruction in their wake the thought is NOT out of hand.Do I really need to go back and remind people who got the anthrax letters years ago?Isn’t it strange that was never solved???It isn’t like that stuff grows on trees.There is/was a limited number of people who could have had access to the stuff, yet years later it isn’t solved?

    The stakes are high for righties.The stakes are high for the entire country to be sure,but the rest of us are not facing impeachment or war crimes trials.And certainly if they could find a way to not face “oversight” by the enemy they would do it…before you pooh pooh me look at their track record.

    And isn’t it strange how the media handled this from the start? They went from the senator having a possible stroke to handing the senate back to the GOP yet no one mentioned all this time that Sen.Thomas and the affect his illness may have on the senate.I wish Senator Thomas my best, but Leukemia is pretty serious.I have known many people who have survived a stroke(which we now know was not what happened to Sen.Johnson)but I have never met anyone who survived Leukemia.So why the rush by the media to return the senate to the GOP?

    One final thought…it seems to me that no matter if the the person who would have picked the new senator is a republican or not his first duty SHOULD be to carry out the will of the people.The people in SD picked a democrat.Replacing him with a republican flies in the face of the will of the people.SD voters should have some legal recourse if this becomes an issue….IF this were happening in my state I would be yelling at the top of my lungs that we need to replace the person who refuses to comply with the will of the voters in SD.

    I do not belong to a party.So things of this nature really piss me off.I don’t give a damn what party you belong to,if a dem passes on they should be replace with another dem..the same is true on the right.The will of the people should always come before political parties

  3. They’re now saying it was a brain bleed, or “AVM” (arteriovenous malformation, if I spelled it right). My thought was either that or an undiagnosed tumor. That audio tape of Sen. Johnson losing control of language was chilling. (Also made me wonder why Dubya hasn’t been run through MRI machines a hundred times by now.) I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor in 1999 because I’d lost some peripheral vision. It all depends where the damage is on the complicated functional map of the brain.

    As for political fallout from the poor man’s misfortune, kos has a good post about the “ghouls” already counting on a 50-50 Senate.

    I think kos is awfully optimistic that, should it be necessary, Republican Gov. Rounds would appoint Johnson’s son to fill the seat. But if I were a betting woman, I’d say Sen. Johnson makes a good recovery in a few months and returns to the Senate. Apparently there is no law requiring him to resign, in spite of his health.

  4. At noon, Adm John Eisold the attending physician of the US Capitol said, “Senator Tim Johnson was found to have had an intracerebral bleed caused by a congenital arteriovenous malformation”. (Reuters)

    This is most likely an aneurism, which is a bubble or bag-like extension to an artery. It is amazing that people live through the rupture of such a structure.

  5. The worrisome thing is that the Senate has to pass an “ongoing resolution” in order to start its session, and there is already some talk of the Republicans filibustering the resolution.

  6. Ray Dobson,

    Interesting. Hadn’t heard that. Let ’em. Pulling something like that will NOT play well with the electorate.

    Question: is it necessary for the Senate to be in session for Committee Chairs to get to work? I’d be fine with the Senate being hamstrung by Republicans if Carl Levin, Joe Biden, and Patrick Leahey could get down to the business of investigating.

    As for Senator Johnson, my feeling is that if the Republicans could argue that Teri Schavio was merely ‘differently abled,’ that they themselves lowered the bar far enough for a diminished but still living Tim Johnson to stay right where he is.

  7. To Quote Rosanne Rosanadanna “It’s always something!”
    Major drama, Perhaps divine intervention on behalf of the mud monkey in chief? What a wonderfully wierd world, a virtual roller-coaster…..
    Let’s give it at least a few days before we panic.

  8. CF, I’m not a Senate procedures wonk but my understanding is that the ongoing resolution is the procedure that would officially certify the Dems as the majority party and give them the chairmanships of committees etc. I agree with you that the Repugs would look bad if they exploited this tragedy for petty partisan gain, but that never stopped them before, at least since the religious right hijacked the party.

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