Johnson Plans His Senate Return

South Dakota lawmaker has been sidelined for eight months by a brain hemorrhage.

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Sidelined by a brain hemorrhage way back on December 13, ailing South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson is already mapping his return to the Senate. Insiders tell me that he is expected to be at his Washington desk soon after Congress returns from its long August recess.

"He'll be back right after Labor Day or thereabouts," says a Democratic aide. It has been a long journey. Despite constant claims from Democratic leaders that Johnson is alert and looking good, he's still being cared for in Washington and has yet to return home. That's slated for later this month. And we hear that his staff and state Democrats are working on a plan for him to appear in public, though the venue is unclear. During his absence, Democratic leaders have talked Johnson up and helped him raise a re-election war chest to stave off potential opponents. But there have been few.

In fact, the leadership has given Republican Sen. John Thune high marks for acting in a bipartisan spirit when referring to Johnson. Still, some on both sides have smirked at how far Senate Democratic leaders have gone to make it sound as if Johnson's hemorrhage hasn't affected his life much. And they've questioned the stream of announcements from Johnson's office about his Senate efforts during his absence.