Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.

U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is hospitalized after what originally was announced as a possible stroke today, though a spokeswoman now says it was neither a stroke nor a heart attack.

“At this stage, he is undergoing a comprehensive evaluation by the stroke team,” the original statement issued by his office read.

During a midday conference call with reporters, Johnson reportedly became disoriented, and stuttered while answering a question. The Associated Press says, “He appeared to recover, asking if there were any additional questions before ending the call.”

Julianne Fisher, Johnson’s spokeswoman, said the senator walked back to his office at the Capitol, but appeared to be feeling ill. He was examined by the Capitol physician, who decided the lawmaker needed to go to the hospital. An ambulance transported Johnson to George Washington University Hospital around noon.

The condition of the 59-year-old Democrat is being evaluated.

Johnson was slated to begin the new Senate session Jan. 4, with 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and two independents, so the health of Johnson, or any member of the upper chamber, is of concern. The independents have said they’ll align themselves with the Democrats, thus giving that party control.

South Dakota Gov. Michael Rounds, a Republican, would appoint any successor if there is a vacancy, and it could change the balance of power in the Senate should a member of the GOP replace Johnson.

“Let’s just keep him in our prayers and hope that he’s going to be all right,” former House Speaker Tom DeLay told host Neal Cavuto on the Fox News Channel.

Asked about why a senator’s health is getting the scrutiny it does, DeLay said: “Because this town is so eat-up with power. That’s all they think about. It doesn’t matter [the subject]. You go and ask somebody for a cup of coffee, they question why you asked. There must be an ulterior motive to you asking somebody for a cup of coffee in this town. It’s a pretty mean town.”

Johnson, who turns 60 Dec. 28, had surgery for prostate cancer in 2004, and is up for re-election in 2008.



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