Sen. Tim Johnson gets back behind the wheel

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) has made huge strides since a brain hemorrhage left him partially paralyzed in 2007, and these days, he appears to be doing better than ever.

Johnson has even begun driving himself to work in the mornings, parking his car in the garage and walking to his office.

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“He’s been driving for a few months now, and he certainly values the increased independence that driving affords,” said spokeswoman Julianne Fisher.

The extent of Johnson’s improvement was evident last Thursday during a conference committee hearing, where an attendee later observed that Johnson spoke with a marked clarity.

And on Tuesday the senator walked to his seat in the conference committee room with an ease that surprised onlookers.

Asked about the visible improvements, Fisher told ITK that it’s all part of a physical recovery process that’s still going strong, even after nearly three years.

“The senator’s mental acuity has never been a concern,” she said, “but physically he continues to improve every day by working on his speech and doing physical therapy. He’s a very strong-willed person.”

Johnson can often be seen using a wheelchair to get around Capitol Hill, but Fisher said that’s about the distances, not the motion.

When he’s in his office in the Hart building, Johnson’s on his feet, she said. “He hasn’t used a wheelchair around the office for more than a year.”