(Senate - September 05, 2007)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.

[Pages S11095-S11097]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                     RETURN OF SENATOR TIM JOHNSON

  Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, I rise this afternoon to join my colleagues 
in welcoming a colleague and a friend, Senator Tim Johnson, back to the 
  Senator Johnson's return today to this illustrious Chamber marks an 
incredible journey that took him from normal daily life, to near death, 
to a remarkable recovery.
  For the last 8 months, people from all walks of life, both Democrats 
and Republicans, have approached me wanting to know how Senator Johnson 
was doing, and nearly every single one of those individuals told me 
they were praying for him.
  Shortly after this happened, I was traveling in Iraq and Afghanistan 
and I ran into military personnel, members of the diplomatic corps, 
other civilians, all asking how Senator Johnson was doing, all offering 
up their prayers and support.
  I happen to believe it was those prayers from across South Dakota, 
across the United States, and from around the world that brought 
Senator Johnson back from his life-threatening condition.
  Since being released from the hospital, Senator Johnson has learned 
how to walk and talk again. His doctors have been amazed at his 
progress. For some of us, it is no surprise. Having faced him in a 
closely fought campaign, I know how tough this man is. After all, 
Senator Johnson has a strong Scandinavian background, something we both 
share. Without question, today marks an important milestone in Senator 
Johnson's recovery.
  Many of us will never know the struggles Senator Johnson and his 
family have been through. In fact, most of us take for granted our 
health, and we take for granted our time with family and friends, 
birthdays and holidays.
  For me, Senator Johnson's experience has made me pause and appreciate 
the little things that make life so precious. Senator Johnson turned 60 
in December, and the party, obviously, had to be delayed. Upon 
returning to South Dakota last week, Senator Johnson and his family 
celebrated both his 60th birthday and Christmas. I am guessing it was 
his best birthday and Christmas ever.
  While Senator Johnson and I come from different political 
backgrounds, we have worked to put our differences aside as we 
represent the people of South Dakota. In fact, since I was elected to 
the Senate in 2004, we have worked closely on a number of issues of 
importance to South Dakota--everything from a highway bill, to an 
energy bill, to drought relief, water projects, and, of course, saving 
Ellsworth Air Force Base from closure under the BRAC process.
  I firmly believe that because he and I worked to put our differences 
aside, our offices were able to coordinate easily to serve the State of 
South Dakota during his hospitalization and recovery.
  The Senate is a very close-knit body, and it is noticeable when a 
Senator is absent for any length of time. Today, however, that absence 
no longer exists. By the grace of God, through the prayers of thousands 
upon thousands of Americans, by the support of an amazing wife Barbara 
and family, and network of friends, and by his sheer will and 
determination, Senator Johnson is back.
  Tim, I know today means a great deal to you and to your family, and 
it is good to see you back in the Senate.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate now proceed to 
the consideration of S. Res. 306, which was submitted earlier today.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will report the 
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

       A resolution (S. Res. 306) concerning the return of Senator 
     Tim Johnson:

       Whereas Tim Johnson is returning to the United States 
     Senate after an absence to recuperate from an intracranial 
     hemorrhage suffered on December 13, 2006: Now, therefore, be 
       Resolved, That, as Senator Tim Johnson returns to the 
     Senate, his fellow Members of the Senate extend their warmest 
     welcome and express their personal happiness at his return, 
     and offer their very best wishes for his continued good 

  Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the resolution 
be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motion to reconsider 
be laid upon the table.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so 
  The resolution (S. Res. 306) was agreed to.
  The preamble was agreed to.
  Mr. THUNE. Thank you, Mr. President.
  (Applause, Senators rising.)
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from South Dakota is 
  Mr. JOHNSON. Mr. President, thank you. It sure does feel good to be 
back here again.
  I wish to thank Senators Thune, Reid, and McConnell, as well as all 
my colleagues, for their warm welcome back. In so many ways, the words 
and prayers from you and your spouses, on both sides of the aisle, 
supported both Barbara and me and gave us strength. You will never know 
what that meant to us.
  I also wish to thank Representative Herseth Sandlin for her 
incredible support throughout these tough times.
  The MILCON appropriations bill is now on the floor, and I must also 
thank Senator Jack Reed for working with my staff and for his 
leadership on the bill.
  Before I get too far along in my remarks, it must already be clear to 
you that my speech is not 100 percent. My doctors tell me it will get 
  But my thoughts are clear and my mind is sharp, and I am here to be a 
voice for South Dakota in the Senate. With patience, persistence, and 
faith I have come back, and my will to keep fighting for South Dakota 
is strong.
  My ability to think is paramount, so I hope now, as I return to my 
office, people focus on my work more than how quickly I walk these 
  Last week, I went home to South Dakota. Today, I come home to the 
  This has been a long and humbling journey--a journey that has taken 
longer than some people have liked, and I count myself among them.
  But I return to work today to this great body with a renewed spirit 
and a sharper focus. I better appreciate today what individuals and 
families go through when they face crippling hardship--whether that 
hardship be the consequence of catastrophic health issues, economic 
hardship, or lack of an opportunity to reach one's full potential in 
life. I believe I have been given a second chance at life. I vow to 
take that second chance and work harder than ever to be the best I can 
be for my State and for my Nation; to be a voice for those individuals 
and families who so often are ignored or forgotten; and to fight to 
live up to the ideals that have made this Nation great. That is my 
focus and that is my commitment to my constituents back home in South 
Dakota and to the people of this great Nation, and to my colleagues 
here in Washington.

  It has been the greatest honor of my life to stand for and by the 
people of South Dakota. I cannot thank them, as well as the Members of 
this Chamber, enough for your patience and support. Today, my work 
begins anew. I relish the task. It is great to be home.

[[Page S11096]]

  Thank you and, Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  (Applause, Senators rising.)
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The majority leader is recognized.
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, before my Republican colleagues leave the 
floor, I want to repeat what I said this morning when the Senate 
opened--the only person here was Senator McConnell--and that is what 
the Republicans have done during the illness of Senator Johnson has 
been exemplary. There have been occasions when, for partisan advantage, 
the minority could have taken advantage of the majority as a result of 
Tim being incapacitated. That was never done, even though there were 
opportunities to do that. As I said this morning, I personally 
appreciate that. I know the Johnson family does. More importantly, Mr. 
President, the American people do. This is the Senate, and I will 
always remember during the past 8 months as we have waited for Tim to 
return how--I repeat--the Republicans never once tried to take 
advantage of his illness. Thank you very much.
  Mr. President, Tim Johnson is a fourth generation South Dakotan. I 
want to underline the fact that John Thune and Tim Johnson remind me of 
Harry Reid and John Ensign, because we too had a very difficult race 
for the Senate, and it ended up very similar to the Thune-Johnson race. 
But we have set those differences aside and now are friends. Above all, 
I say to my friend John Thune, I admire and appreciate what you have 
done in helping Tim in his absence and for being the person who would 
not allow anything to be done that would in any way harm Tim Johnson on 
a partisan basis. Thank you very much, John.
  I have learned a lot about Tim Johnson in the past 8 months. I know 
he went to school at the University of South Dakota, that it is there 
he met Barbara, his wife. It is in a town called Vermillion that he 
started his law practice, and it is there that he saw success in the 
legal field. He served 4 years, starting in 1982, in the House of 
Representatives in the State of South Dakota. He has received many 
awards: Outstanding Citizen of the State of South Dakota, first 
recipient of the Billy Sutton Award for legislative achievement. He was 
elected to the House in 1986. During that year he was responsible for 
passing more legislation than any of the other 50 first-term Members.
  He has now been in the Senate doing outstanding work. I noticed on 
his resume, of course, he listed the Appropriations Committee, the 
Budget Committee, the Banking Committee, the Energy Committee, the 
Indian Affairs Committee, but he left off the Ethics Committee. He was 
chosen on that committee to be the chair of that committee, because he 
is the example of an ethical, honest legislator and person.
  Tim and Barbara still have their home in Vermilion, but I have gotten 
to know that family so well. Brooks served and is serving in the U.S. 
Army, having been a combat veteran in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and 
Iraq. He is now an Army recruiter. Brendan is a lawyer and has a law 
practice and is doing excellent work. Kelsey and I--during her father's 
illness--spent lots of time together, especially waiting for her 
brothers to come. It took a couple of days for them to get here from 
around the country, as air travel out of South Dakota is not that easy.
  As you proceed through life, you find people that you have such 
admiration for. Of course, we all admire Tim. But there is a person in 
this Chamber--and I know the Senate rules. We are not to refer to 
people in this Chamber, but I hope people will forgive me today in 
recognizing someone I will never forget, and that is his loving wife 
  (Applause, Senators rising.)
  I think Barbara and I will never forget--Tim was unconscious at the 
time--the first night Tim got sick. The reason I mention this is there 
was a doctor--and I don't want to in any way embarrass Tim or his 
family, but I think the man deserves recognition. I was asked to be 
with Barbara, and I was happy to be there with the children coming that 
first terrible afternoon. Things weren't going well. Barbara recognized 
it at first that he wasn't doing well. The doctor came and said, We are 
going to have to relieve the pressure. I am going to have to go into 
his skull. I said to this doctor, How many times have you done that? He 
said, Innumerable times. He was not an old man, but he was surrounded 
by old neurologists and neurosurgeons.
  He came back a while later, an hour and a half, maybe, and he said, I 
am going to have to do an angiogram; I don't know what is going on in 
his brain. So they put something in to look at his brain. I said, How 
many times have you done that? He said over a thousand times. Then he 
comes back about an hour and a half or 2 hours later and tells us they 
are going to have to operate on Tim. It is going to take a long time, 
probably about 7 hours. After he worked all of this time, I said to 
him, Who is going to do this, because he had to be getting tired by 
then. He looked at Barbara with these piercing eyes, and said, I am 
going to do it. That is what I do. He said, I am not only a 
neurosurgeon, I have a subspecialty in the blood supply to the brain. 
He walked out of that room, and we had so much confidence in his 
ability that we felt Tim was going to make it. That man's name is Dr. 
Vivek Deshmukh. I haven't had the opportunity--I wanted to make sure 
Tim came back here--but some day I am going to be able to express to 
him on a personal basis how he handled this man's illness. Tim wasn't 
there, only in spirit, but this doctor deserves recognition, and I hope 
that is what I do with my little speech here today.

  Amidst the daily scuffles that take place here in the Senate, we have 
the press, but many Americans may not realize we are a family. We 
sometimes joke about it, but we are, and this proves it. Sometimes 
people say this Senate family is dysfunctional, and maybe sometimes it 
is. But despite our quarrels on policy and politics, the 100 men and 
women who serve in this Chamber have the deepest respect and admiration 
for each other. We care about each other's health, families, and all 
the things that go on outside the walls of this Capitol building. I 
have dear friends, and we all do in this Chamber, but my admiration and 
respect for Tim Johnson is difficult to calculate.
  When he fell ill in December of last year, we were all touched by 
this unfortunate incident. But as we look at what happened, we have 
heard this overused term: Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, because 
Tim Johnson was taken immediately to George Washington Hospital where 
they have a team of physicians as good as any place in the world to 
take care of his injury--maybe not of other injuries, not other 
illnesses, but for this one it is as good as any place in the country. 
Had it happened the next day, he would have been on an airplane going 
to South Dakota. Had it happened the next day, he would have been on an 
Indian reservation in South Dakota. So maybe, maybe his misfortune was 
a blessing. Maybe it was a blessing.
  We all prayed for him. We all hoped for his recovery. We couldn't 
watch his recovery because he was away from us most of the time. We all 
prayed for his recovery with hope for his strength. Tim's wonderful 
wife Barbara, whom I have already mentioned, said last month:

       I have learned a lot about Tim Johnson during the last 
     months. I have learned that he is extremely determined. How 
     he has gotten through this and maintained an even balance I 
     will never understand. His sense of humor and just the: OK, I 
     know what I have to do, I am going to go ahead and do it, and 
     he does it.

  So these past months, with humor and determination that Barbara 
mentioned, we all in the Senate now know what she is talking about.
  Tim, I am so glad you are back. I am so happy that your mind is 100 
percent. We have all been told your speech shortly will be 100 percent, 
and you should know it is 95 percent right now. We throw words around 
like we are happy to have you back, but I have to say in front of the 
whole world, Tim, we love you. I love you.
  (Applause, Senators rising.)
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Republican leader is 
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, on behalf of the entire U.S. Senate 
Republican Conference, let me say as well, we welcome back to the 
Senate our good friend, the senior Senator from South Dakota. The 
entire Senate family was

[[Page S11097]]

thrown into a state of shock and worry when Tim Johnson was rushed to 
the hospital for emergency brain surgery last December. The person who 
seemed most calm was the woman we just recognized up in the gallery: 
his wife Barbara. She struck an early note of hope. She said she and 
the rest of the Johnson family were ``encouraged and optimistic.'' 
Those aren't the words most of us would choose in a moment such as 
that, but the Johnsons had been there before, and they seemed to know 
Tim would be back, back here, before all was said and done; they would 
make sure of it.
  Tim credits Barbara with helping him overcome prostate cancer in 
2004, and it was his support that helped her through a couple of 
serious illnesses of her own. They always overcame the obstacles, 
working as a team, determined to push through. They are real fighters. 
For many, this seemed as if it would be the fight of their lives.
  But just 2 months after surgery, Barbara and the Johnson children, 
Brooks, Brenda, and Kelsey, were telling people, ``We've got our Tim 
  Tim was completely focused on recovery. He went through weeks and 
weeks of intense rehab. And soon enough, he started to get back to the 
clips and do the office work from his hospital bed.
  When they released him from rehab, this gritty great-grandson of a 
South Dakota homesteader made a bold decision--actually a prediction--
saying he was absolutely ``determined to get back in the saddle.''
  Thanks to the committed care of doctors and therapists, the prayers 
of constituents and colleagues, and, above all, the loving care of 
Barbara and their children, Tim's Senate colleagues can also say, with 
a real sense of joy, that they too ``have their Tim back.''
  I yield the floor.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Illinois is 
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I join in this chorus to say how 
privileged and humbled I am to stand before this body and welcome back 
my friend and fellow colleague, Senator Tim Johnson. Tim and I served 
in the House together. We came to the Senate in the same year. I went 
up to campaign in South Dakota, and he has been a great friend to 
Illinois. I have known him more than 20 years.
  I remember when I heard he had been stricken. I was stunned, as 
everybody was across America. As has been said before, the prayers of 
millions reached out to Tim and his family in their hour of need.
  For those who don't know Tim Johnson, he is not a typical politician. 
He doesn't really struggle for media attention, as some of us might; 
but he got a lot more attention than he ever thought he would because 
the whole world watched anxiously during those moments of surgery and 
recovery and rehabilitation. There wasn't a place you would go anywhere 
in America that Tim Johnson wasn't asked about. ``How is he doing?'' 
``What is the latest?'' ``When is he coming back?''
  Those of us who knew Tim and what he had done in the Senate and 
House, those of us who know his great family knew he would be back. He 
is one of those tough Scandinavians--not really flashy but solid. You 
just knew he was going to make it. I thought to myself, of all of us 
who could have suffered this terrible illness, this is one man who will 
be able to make it back. I also knew something that has already been 
alluded to. When Tim and Barbara took those vows to stand by one 
another in sickness and in health, they really meant it because they 
have proved it over and over again to one another. Loretta and I went 
by the hospital one day and it wasn't a good day to visit, so we left a 
note. We have come to know how close they are and supportive of one 
  It wasn't just Barbara's strength but the strength of the whole 
family that came through in Tim's recovery. He has done such a 
remarkable job today. He has brought out the humanity of the united 
states Senate. We can put aside the issues and the bickering, the 
fighting and the party labels, and really show that, when it gets down 
to it, we are part of a family that really cares about one another on a 
personal basis.
  We are so glad to have you back, Tim. We wish you the best. We will 
be back in the Appropriations Committee fighting for South Dakota and 
Illinois real soon. Thank you.
  Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sanders). Without objection, it is so