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Tim Johnson (South Dakota politician)

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Tim Johnson (South Dakota politician)

Tim Johnson
United States Senator
from South Dakota
In office
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2015
Preceded by Larry Pressler
Succeeded by Mike Rounds
Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee
In office
January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2015
Preceded by Chris Dodd
Succeeded by Richard Shelby
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Dakota's At-large district
In office
January 3, 1987 – January 3, 1997
Preceded by Tom Daschle
Succeeded by John Thune
Personal details
Born Timothy Peter Johnson
(1946-12-28) December 28, 1946
Canton, South Dakota, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Barbara Brooks
Children Brendan
Alma mater University of South Dakota
Religion Lutheranism
Website Senate website

Timothy Peter "Tim" Johnson (born December 28, 1946) was a United States Senator from South Dakota from 1997 to 2015. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as the United States Representative for South Dakota's at-large congressional district from 1987 to 1997 and in the state legislature from 1979 to 1987. Johnson chose not to seek reelection in 2014.[1]


  • Early life, education and career 1
  • Early political career 2
  • United States Senate 3
    • Committee assignments 3.1
  • Political positions 4
  • Health 5
  • Political campaigns 6
    • 2008 6.1
  • Electoral history 7
  • Personal life 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Early life, education and career

Johnson was born in Canton, South Dakota, the son of Ruth Jorinda (née Ljostveit) and Vandel Charles Johnson. He has Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish ancestry.[2] Raised in Vermillion, Johnson earned a B.A. in 1969 and an M.A. in 1970 from the University of South Dakota, where he was a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. After doing post-graduate studies at Michigan State University from 1970 to 1971, a period during which he worked for the Michigan State Senate, Johnson returned to the University of South Dakota and earned his J.D. in 1975. Immediately after earning his law degree, he went into private practice.

Early political career

Johnson served in the South Dakota House of Representatives from 1979 to 1982 and in the South Dakota Senate from 1983 to 1986. Johnson served as Clay County deputy state's attorney in 1985 during his tenure in the South Dakota Senate.

Johnson was elected to the United States House of Representatives from South Dakota's at-large congressional district in 1986. During his first term, he introduced more legislation than any other freshman member of the House.[3] Between 1991 and 1994, he served as a regional whip for the Democratic Party. He left the House in 1997, when he took up his newly acquired Senate seat.

United States Senate

Committee assignments

Political positions

Infrastructure Improvements

During his tenure in Congress, Johnson made it a priority to support infrastructure projects that delivered clean drinking water to communities throughout South Dakota and into surrounding states. He authored several water project bills, resulting in clean drinking water being delivered to hundreds of thousands of South Dakota families.

During his first term in the House of Representatives, Congressman Tim Johnson authored the Mni Wiconi Project Act of 1988 (H.R. 2772, enacted into law as Public Law 100-516). The measure authorized construction of a water project serving an area of southwestern South Dakota that included the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, an area that had long suffered low water supplies and poor water quality. The project currently serves more than 50,000 residents, many of whom reside in some of the poorest counties in the United States.

In subsequent years, Johnson authored legislation (H.R. 3954) to expand the Mni Wiconi Rural Water Project service area, and the expansion was incorporated into a broader bill and enacted as Public Law 103-434.

Johnson’s Mid Dakota Rural Water System Act of 1991 (H.R. 616) was incorporated into a larger package of infrastructure projects and enacted into law as Public Law 102-575. The Mid Dakota Rural Water Project was completed in 2006 and serves more than 30,000 residents of east-central South Dakota.

The Fall River Rural Water Users District Rural Water System Act of 1998 (S. 744 in the 105th Congress, enacted as Public Law 105-352) authorized the Bureau of Reclamation to construct a rural water system in Fall River County of South Dakota. After years of drought, residents in the southeastern area of that county had been left without a suitable water supply, and many of them were forced to either haul water or use bottled water because of poor water quality.

The Lewis and Clark Rural Water System Act of 1999 (S.244 in the 106th Congress) authorized construction of a water delivery system spanning a broad area of southeastern South Dakota, northwestern Iowa, and southwestern Minnesota. The fast-growing population of the region had made it clear that existing water infrastructure throughout the area would become insufficient, and the system joined 22 rural water systems and communities. The authorized project was intended to bring clean, safe drinking water to 180,000 individuals throughout the Lewis and Clark service region. Due to population growth, the service area currently encompasses more than 300,000 residents. While much of the South Dakota portion of the system has been constructed, federal budget problems have slowed completion of the project.

The Perkins County Rural Water System Act (S.2117 in the 105th Congress and S.243 in the 106th Congress, enacted as Public Law 106-136) authorized the Bureau of Reclamation to construct a rural water system in Perkins County of South Dakota, serving approximately 2,500 residents including the communities of Lemmon and Bison.


Johnson worked for decades to enact a requirement that meat and other agricultural products be labeled for country of origin. Having first authored legislation addressing the issue in 1992 (H.R. 5855), Johnson continued the fight until a meat labeling law was enacted in 2002 as part of the Farm Bill reauthorization (Public Law 107-171). The enacted law contained language Johnson had introduced as S. 280 earlier that Congress).

For more than a decade, executive branch opposition and legal challenges delayed implementation of the labeling law. Johnson continued fighting for full implementation of the COOL law, which was contested by trading partners and the meat industry. Johnson is continuing to call for full implementation of the labeling law.

In 2013 the National Farmers Union presented Johnson with its Friend of the Family Farmer award, a high honor intended to recognize his commitment to helping small scale family farms remain viable.[4]


Johnson authored the bill establishing the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in western South Dakota. The measure was enacted as Public Law 106-115, creating a new unit of the National Park System. At the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, visitors can learn about the Cold War, and the nuclear missiles that threatened massive destruction while also serving as a deterrent to war.

Economic Development

After years of working to expand economic opportunity for South Dakotans, Johnson developed what he termed his Hometown Prosperity Plan to help grow the South Dakota economy and improve financial prospects for citizens of the state.

Defense and Veterans Issues

Senator Tim Johnson was the only seated member of Congress to have a son or daughter serving in the active duty military when the Senate voted to approve the use of force in Iraq. Johnson’s oldest son, Brooks, served in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, which would surely be mobilized to fight in Iraq. Johnson ultimately voted to permit the use of force, and his son served admirably in Iraq, having already served in other conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo. Brooks Johnson would later go on to serve in the conflict in Afghanistan as well.

As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Johnson secured full and timely funding for veterans health care for the first time in 21 years. Johnson was also among a group of legislators that successfully pressed for enactment of legislation providing advance funding for veterans health care, thereby preventing health services for veterans from being undermined by funding delays.

When the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recommended closure of Ellsworth Air Force Base, Johnson was instrumental in making the South Dakota delegation’s case to keep the base open. Ultimately, the base was preserved by an 8 to 1 vote of the BRAC commission.

Sen. Johnson (second from right) answers questions after he helped prevent the closure of Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. Left to right: Governor M. Michael Rounds, Rep. Stephanie Herseth, Johnson and Sen. John Thune.


The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection measure also created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency designed to enforce consumer protection laws involving a wide range of topics including predatory lending, reigning in corrosive Wall Street practices, and ensuring consumers have adequate information to make informed choices concerning financial products. The CFPB began operating in 2011, but it was without a confirmed director for two years because Republicans objected to creation of the agency and made it clear they would withhold support for any nominee to head the agency. Though Richard Cordray was nominated by President Obama to be the first head of the agency, Republicans opposed confirmation. Lacking a confirmed director, the agency was unable to write new rules or perform other functions for which it had been formed.

As Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Johnson pressed for confirmation and ultimately brought Cordray’s nomination to a committee vote. The committee approved Cordray’s nomination on a party-line 12-10 vote, and Cordray was ultimately confirmed by the full Senate on a 66-34 vote.


While in the House, Johnson was among the minority of his party to vote in favor of the 2001 tax cut. On January 31, 2006, Johnson was one of only four Democrats to vote to confirm Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court. He has also called for "broadened use" of the death penalty.[5]

Johnson was, however, among the minority of senators to vote against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which was strongly supported by pro-life groups. While a member of the House, he was one of only 16 congressmen to vote against the Telecom Act of 1996, which provided for deregulation and competition in the communication sector and was given firm support by Republicans, business groups, and most Democrats.

In May 2007, Johnson received an Honored Cooperator award from the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) for his support of cooperative businesses.[6]

Paul Hazen, NCBA president, made the presentation to Johnson’s staff at the NCBA annual meeting in Arlington, Virginia. Hazen praised Johnson for consistently supporting the Rural Cooperative Development Grants (RCDG) program which, typically funded at $6 million annually, is the only federal grants program devoted solely to forming and expanding co-ops.[6]

Johnson supported President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009,[7] and he voted for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[8]

In May 2010, Johnson introduced the Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act of 2010, a bill that would designate over 48,000 acres (190 km2) of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland as protected wilderness. The act would allow the continuation of grazing and hunting on the land and would create the first national grassland wilderness in the country.[9][10]

On December 18, 2010, Johnson voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.[11][12]


Johnson was treated for

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Tom Daschle
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Dakota's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
John Thune
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ted Muenster
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from South Dakota
(Class 2)

1996, 2002, 2008
Succeeded by
Rick Weiland
United States Senate
Preceded by
Larry Pressler
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from South Dakota
Served alongside: Tom Daschle, John Thune
Succeeded by
Mike Rounds
Preceded by
Chris Dodd
Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee
Succeeded by
Richard Shelby
  • Tim Johnson (South Dakota politician) at DMOZ

External links

Further reading

  1. ^ "Sen. Tim Johnson to retire in 2014, giving GOP new pickup target". The Hill. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "rootsweb Search". Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  3. ^ [4] Archived June 26, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Sen. Tim Johnson (D)". National Journal Almanac. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "Tim Johnson on the Issues". Retrieved 2006-12-20. Broaden use of death penalty. (Jan 1996) 
  6. ^ a b "Sen. Johnson Wins Honored Cooperator Award". Credit Union Journal. May 7, 2007. Retrieved 11 September 2010. 
  7. ^ [5]
  8. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  9. ^ "Conservation Group Hails Introduction of Grassland Wilderness Bill". South Dakota Wild Grassland Coalition. May 5, 2010. Retrieved 11 September 2010. 
  10. ^ Cook, Andrea J. (June 16, 2010). "Neighbors disagree on grasslands wilderness". Rapid City Journal. Retrieved 11 September 2010. 
  11. ^ [6]
  12. ^ "'"Senate Vote 281 - Repeals ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The New York Times. 
  13. ^ "Biography of Senator Tim Johnson". Tim Johnson Senate website. Archived from the original on 2006-12-16. Retrieved 2006-12-20. 
  14. ^ "Sen. Johnson recovering after brain surgery". Associated Press. 2006-12-14. Retrieved 2006-12-23. He underwent prostate cancer treatment in 2004, and subsequent tests have shown him to be clear of the disease. 
  15. ^ "Senator in Critical Condition". 2006-12-14. Retrieved 2006-12-14. Johnson, 59, was in critical condition Thursday morning after surgery... 
  16. ^ Jalonick, Mary Clare (January 19, 2007). "Ailing South Dakota Senator on the Mend".  
  17. ^  
  18. ^ "Hospitalized Sen. Tim Johnson Co-Sponsors Bill". February 16, 2007
  19. ^ Mlbank, Dana (September 6, 2007). "Senate Family Welcomes Cousin Tim . . . Not So Much Uncle Larry". Washington Post. 
  20. ^ Johnson, Dirk (22 October 2008). "In South Dakota Race, Gauging the Impact of a Senator’s Health". New York Times. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  21. ^ "Election 2008: South Dakota Senate". Rasmussen Reports. March 7, 2008. 
  22. ^ Johnson backs Obama
  23. ^ a b "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved 2007-08-08. 


Tim and Barbara Johnson have three children and six grandchildren. They live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Personal life

South Dakota Senator (Class II): Results 1996–2008[23]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1996 Tim Johnson 166,533 51% Larry Pressler 157,954 49%
2002 Tim Johnson 167,481 50% John Thune 166,949 49% Kurt Evans Libertarian 3,071 1%
2008 Tim Johnson 237,866 62.5% Joel Dykstra 142,778 37.5%

*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1992, Ann Balakier received 2,780 votes.

South Dakota's at-large congressional district: Results 1986–1994[23]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1986 Tim Johnson 171,462 59% Dale Bell 118,261 41%
1988 Tim Johnson 223,759 72% David Volk 88,157 28%
1990 Tim Johnson 173,814 68% Don Frankenfeld 83,484 32%
1992 Tim Johnson 230,070 69% John Timmer 89,375 27% Ronald Wieczorek Independent 6,746 2% Robert J. Newland Libertarian 3,931 1% *
1994 Tim Johnson 183,036 60% Jan Berkhout 112,054 37% Ronald Wieczorek Independent 10,832 4%

Electoral history

In January 2008, Johnson endorsed Barack Obama for President in the Democratic primary.[22]

Johnson ran for reelection in 2008. While he was recovering earlier in the campaign season, fellow Democratic senators raised funds on behalf of his campaign. Early polls showed Johnson likely to beat the Republican challenger, Joel Dykstra,[21] and he did, with 62.5% of the vote.


Johnson narrowly defeated three-term Senator 2000, and the state's senior Senator and Johnson's fellow Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who was subsequently up for re-election in 2004 and lost to Thune. In his 2002 election, Johnson won ninety-four percent of the vote among the Oglala Sioux, South Dakota's biggest tribe.[20]

Political campaigns

On February 15, 2007, Johnson marked his return to Senate work by co-sponsoring his first piece of legislation since his illness, the Emergency Farm Relief Act of 2007.[18] Johnson returned to his full schedule in the Senate on September 5, 2007 to both tributes and standing ovations.[19]


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