December 17, 2006 in Nation/World

Johnson resting, still critical

Mary Clare Jalonick Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., visited Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., on Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., was in critical condition Saturday and resting from brain surgery. In South Dakota, the governor said people were standing behind the stricken lawmaker and he urged patience during Johnson’s recovery.

“At this point, no news is good news,” said the senator’s spokesman, Noah Pinegar.

Johnson had a brain hemorrhage Wednesday, weeks before Democrats are to take over the Senate with a one-vote majority.

GOP Gov. Mike Rounds, who would appoint a replacement if Johnson were to leave office, said, “It just happens that we have one of our friends, one of our colleagues, who is going through a tough time. When that happens, we stand by him. And that’s exactly what the people of South Dakota will do,” Rounds spoke to reporters before delivering the winter commencement address at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, Johnson’s hometown.

Johnson’s condition has appeared to improve since the surgery at the George Washington University Hospital. Johnson has responded to voices, opened his eyes and moved his limbs.

Johnson, 59, had emergency surgery late Wednesday after being rushed to the hospital from his office. The surgery relieved pressure on the brain and stopped the bleeding.

A Republican appointee would create a 50-50 tie and effectively allow the GOP to retain Senate control because of Vice President Dick Cheney’s tie-breaking vote.

Rounds said Saturday it was not appropriate to talk about the Senate’s balance of power changing with the possible appointment of a Republican if Johnson’s seat were to become vacant.

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