Sorry, its not such a nothing:
Senate control hangs on hospitalized member's health
POSTED: 9:21 a.m. EST, December 14, 2006
• NEW: Capitol physician says senator suffered from "an intracerebral bleed"
• NEW: Johnson suffered from "congenital arteriovenous malformation," doctor says
• Senator's condition is critical after undergoing brain surgery
• If Democrat Johnson could not serve, change in Senate control could result
(Note: under Senate rules, he wouldn't have to resign even if incapacitated, meaning the Democrats would still have a 51-49 edge, and 50-49 if everyone shows up to vote on organizing the Senate by party).
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With Democrat's grasp of the Senate relying on the thinnest of margins, ultimate control of the chamber hung on the health of a South Dakota senator who underwent brain surgery Thursday morning.
Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota was in critical condition, said David Boyd, a nursing supervisor at a George Washington University Hospital.
Should Johnson not be able to complete his term, which ends in 2008, South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican, would appoint his replacement, which could shift the balance of power in the Senate.
Democrats gained a 51-49 Senate majority after last month's election. A GOP appointee would result in a 50-50 split and allow the GOP to retain Senate control through Vice President Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote.
Johnson, 59, was out of surgery at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, a source close to the senator told CNN. He was hospitalized Wednesday morning after he appeared to suffer stroke-like symptoms.
Adm. John Eisold, attending physician of the U.S. Capitol, told CNN that Johnson had "an intracerebral bleed caused by a congenital arteriovenous malformation. He underwent successful surgery to evacuate the blood and stabilize the malformation."
"It is premature to determine whether further surgery will be required or to assess any long term prognosis," Eisold said.
Barbara Johnson, wife of Sen. Johnson, said, "The Johnson family is encouraged and optimistic. They are grateful for the prayers and good wishes of friends, supporters and South Dakotans. They are especially grateful for the work of the doctors and all medical personnel and GWU hospital."
Johnson, 59, was taken to the hospital Wednesday after he appeared to suffer the stroke-like symptoms, although a spokeswoman for the senator said subsequent evaluation showed he did not suffer a stroke or a heart attack.
There was no word early Thursday on the nature of Johnson's surgery.
Staffers told CNN that Johnson was conscious when he was transported to the hospital.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, spent time at the hospital out of concern for Johnson, Reid's spokesman said.
Johnson spokeswoman Julianne Fisher said the senator was in the Capitol on Wednesday morning conducting a conference call with South Dakota reporters when "his speech pattern slipped off." (Listen to Johnson's difficulty speaking during a WNAX radio interview -- MP3, 749 kb)
Fisher said the senator was able to walk back to his office in the Hart Senate Office Building, then began having problems with his right arm. He thought he was all right, she said, and went to his desk, but came out a few minutes later and "it was apparent he needed help."
Staffers put him on a couch in the office and called the Capitol doctor, she said. He was taken to the hospital shortly afterward. His wife, in the office to have lunch with him, rode with him, Fisher said.
"It transpired very fast," she said, adding the senator's staff was shaken by the incident.
But, she said of the hospital, "we keep reminding ourselves, this is where they take Dick Cheney."
Although the issue of incapacitation is not spelled out in state law, South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson said he believes there would be "precedent at the federal level."
Nelson said an appointment would fill the vacancy until a general election could be held in November 2008. There are no restrictions on who the governor can appoint, beyond meeting the legal requirements for Senate membership, he said.
South Dakota has not faced the replacement of an elected office holder "in recent history."
Rounds issued a statement saying his prayers were with Johnson and his family. "We are hopeful of good news for our friend and colleague," the governor said.
Johnson battled prostate cancer in 2004, and after surgery, tests showed he no longer had the disease, according to his Web site.