Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dem Sen. Tim Johnson reportedly in critical condition after surgery

The Associated Press is reporting that Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) is "in critical condition" after surgery. AP added that "the U.S. Capitol physician said Johnson underwent successful brain surgery for an arteriovenous malformation, a condition which causes arteries and veins to grow abnormally large."

A late report at CBS notes the following:

Johnson underwent surgery late Wednesday. There has been no word on the nature of the surgery, which lasted past midnight, or on Johnson's condition.Sources close to the situation, speaking before the surgery was made public, tell CBS News the situation is definitely not good.

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.

Concerns are rising that the Democrats' new Senate power is 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.

A statement from Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who is slated to be Senate Majority Leader in the 110th Congress, reads, "Senator Johnson is a dear friend to me and to all of us here in the Senate. Every member of the United States Senate sends our best to him and to his family at this difficult time, and we wish him a full recovery."

Johnson will turn 60 on December 29.

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.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story indicated that the governor's appointed replacement would serve until the 2008 election. That information, reported by other news agencies as well, can not be verified. RAW STORY regrets the error.


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