Johnson returns to Capitol

Johnson returns to Capitol
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) made a grand entrance through the doors of his Senate office Wednesday, flanked at each side by fellow South Dakota lawmakers Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Sen. John Thune.

The moment may perhaps be remembered as one of the most defining of Sen. Johnson's political career. It marked both a beginning and an end.

He officially began his duties in the U.S. Senate that day, after being sidelined since late last December with a life-threatening cerebral hemorrhage.

Johnson also put to rest speculation that has been stirring in recent months in South Dakota. Some voters, expressing themselves in everything from Internet blogs to letters to newspaper editors, had begun predicting that the senator never would return to work.

His initial return to his office was a media event, with cameras crowding around as he scootered through the door alongside Thune and Herseth Sandlin. Staffers cheered as he entered the office.

Johnson told South Dakota media who had traveled to Washington, DC, that it felt good to be back at his office.

"I'm ready to go. It's wonderful," he said, replying to a reporter's request to describe his feelings at that moment. "I have good friends, both John and Stephanie (here) and many other friendships across the aisle (in the Senate)."

Johnson noted that he will continue to work on speech, physical and occupational therapy in addition to fulfilling his duties in the Senate.

"It will be an inch at a time," he said. "I have speech therapy three times a week, and physical and occupational therapy four times a week, and that is ongoing."

Later that afternoon, Johnson returned to the floor of the U.S. Senate, where he was greeted by a standing ovation from both Republican and Democratic colleagues.

"It sure does feel good to be back here again," Johnson said, reading prepared remarks. "I want to thank Senators Thune, Reid and McConnell, as well as all of my colleagues, for the warm welcome back. In so many ways, the words and prayers from you and your spouses, on both sides of the aisle, supported both Barb and me and gave us strength.

"You will never know what that meant to us. I also want to thank Rep. Herseth Sandlin for her incredible support through these tough times," he said.

Johnson noted that the MilCon Approps bill is now on the floor. He thanked Sen. Jack Reed for working with his staff on the legislation.

"Before I get too far along in my remarks, it must�already be clear to you that�my speech is not 100 percent," he told fellow senators. "My doctors tell me that it will get there.�

"But my thoughts are clear and my mind is sharp and I'm here to be a voice for South Dakota in the Senate," Johnson said. "With patience, persistence and faith, I have fought back, and my will to keep fighting for South Dakota is strong. My ability to think is paramount so I hope that now as I return to my office, people focus on my work more than how quickly I walk these days."

He noted that last week, he made a homecoming journey back to South Dakota.

"Today, I come home to the United States Senate," he said. "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."

Johnson told fellow senators that he better appreciates what individuals and families go through when they face crippling hardships.�

"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 too often are ignored or forgotten; and to fight to live up to the ideals that have made this nation great," he said.� �

Johnson was rushed from his Senate office to George Washington University Hospital in December after becoming disoriented on a conference call with reporters.

He underwent emergency surgery for arteriovenous malformation, a condition that causes arteries and veins in the brain to grow abnormally large, become tangled and sometimes burst.

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