Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) underwent emergency surgery overnight to repair bleeding inside his brain and was “recovering without complication” this morning, according to the U.S. Capitol physician. Johnson, 59, who is in the critical care unit at George Washington University Hospital, fell ill at the Capitol yesterday, introducing a note of uncertainty over control of the Senate just weeks before Democrats are to take over with a one-vote margin.
Johnson “was found to have had an intracerebral bleed caused by a congenital arteriovenous malformation,” Adm. John Eisold, attending physician of the U.S. Capitol, said in a statement issued by the senator’s office shortly after 9 a.m. today. “He underwent successful surgery to evacuate the blood and stabilize the malformation.” Eisold said it was too early to offer a long-term prognosis.
[…] The two-term senator was rushed to the hospital early yesterday afternoon, shortly after becoming disoriented during a conference call with news reporters. He underwent “a comprehensive evaluation by the stroke team,” his office said, and eventually was diagnosed with the brain hemorrhage, the severity of which has not yet been announced to the public.
Johnson’s illness — which sent Senate Democratic leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) rushing to the hospital to check on Johnson — underscored the fragility of Democrats’ hold on the next Senate, which they won by the narrowest of margins in the Nov. 7 elections. Should Johnson be unable to complete his term, South Dakota’s Republican governor, Michael Rounds, would name a replacement for the next two years. With Johnson in office, Democrats would hold a 51-to-49 edge in the Senate that convenes Jan. 4 as part of the 110th Congress. (The two independents have said they will caucus with the Democrats.) But if he is to leave office before then and Rounds replaces him with a Republican, the GOP would control the chamber.
In a 50-50 Senate, Vice President Cheney could break tie votes in the GOP’s favor. But a Senate that becomes evenly split after it is in session would not necessarily fall to Republicans, Senate historians said. Rules and precedents could leave a party in charge of the chamber even after its membership falls below that of the other party.
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