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Johnson Aides Remodeling Office for His Return

Aides to Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) have begun making structural changes to the space in his Hart Senate Office building suites in anticipation of his return to the Capitol following a serious illness. They are widening walkways so that the offices will be accessible by wheel chair.

Julianne Fisher, Johnson's spokeswoman, sent a memo to all Democratic press secretaries today explaining the changes to come, while tamping down expectations of when he will return from his rehabilitation after suffering a brain hemorrhage in a mid-December while on a conference call to South Dakota reporters. Johnson, according to Fisher, is still undergoing in-patient rehabilitation and must shift to out-patient rehab before he can return to work.

But the decision to restructure the office is the clearest sign yet that Johnson is recovering enough to return to the Senate, where his absence has left the Democrats with a razor-thin 50-49 majority. Had he declared he was incapable of returning to work, a Republican governor would have replaced Johnson for the remainder of his term through 2008, creating the potential for the Senate to be 50-50 and flip back to Republican control because of Vice President Cheney's tie-breaking vote.

Here's an AP story on the office construction, and here's the the full memo from Fisher on Johnson's recovery:

From: Democratic Press Secretaries [mailto:REDACTED] On Behalf Of Fisher, Julianne (Johnson)
Sent: Wednesday, April 11, 2007 3:53 PM
To: [REDACTED
Subject: Update from Senator Johnson's Office...

Hey, everyone - I thought I would touch base quickly from the Johnson office to thank you all again for all of the support you have given Team Johnson. I only wish I had a nickel for every time someone has asked us for a timeline or a firm date for his return. He's receiving regular briefings from staff, following the news, reading memos, etc. While I can assure you he would much rather be here than where he is, we are still not releasing a date.

The Senator is doing great and making wonderful progress. You may soon be seeing stories about some physical changes to Senator Johnson's DC office. They are, in fact, widening some of the walkways in the suite, as well as, making some changes to his personal office so that it better fits his needs when he returns. This process will take several weeks, and he certainly will not return before it is completed. Senator Johnson is still in in-patient rehabilitation. He will eventually transition to out-patient status before returning to work in the office.

I know many of your bosses have been asked by the media about his return. If possible, we do ask that you talk to your bosses about creating timeframes Senator Johnson CAN meet, rather than ones that just don't match what he will be able to deliver.

Again - he's doing really well, but it simply takes time to recover. If asked, he will return as soon as he can.

Thank you so much for the help. It's definitely appreciated. If you have any questions, just drop me a line.

-Julianne

By Paul Kane  |  April 11, 2007; 4:54 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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