In his first extended public appearance since entering the hospital earlier this week for surgery on a narrowed artery, Cheney told reporters Wednesday on Capitol Hill he's "got a job to do" and expects to remain as the vice president for as long as President Bush wants.
The vice president insisted he's having the time of his life in the job, saying that it's not stressful, since it's a job he likes.
As for his health, he said he's been losing weight. And he joked that's made easier because his wife, Lynne, is "not a great cook."
President Bush said of Cheney: "He looks good, feels good, and that's good news."
He said there's no reason for the vice president to cut back his schedule, despite Monday's procedure and the four heart attacks Cheney has suffered since age 37.
To be sure, with battle lines drawn over tax cuts and Social Security reform, Mr. Bush can ill afford to lose his political right-hand man.
Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg says, "It's the case that Dick Cheney is so important to this administration that without im, without his experience and savvy and knowledge working the Hill, there's a huge question mark. Who's going to fill that vacuum?"
However, the vice president's cardiologist, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, told reporters that even if the vice president sticks to his no-beef diet and rigorous workout regimen, there is a 40 percent chance of a future blockage in his artery.
The artery, which had been opened after Cheney suffered his fourth heart attack in late November, had partially reclosed, Reiner said, adding there was no evidence that the vice president had suffered another heart attack.
In the angioplasty procedure performed Monday, doctors inserted a flexible tube into Cheney's narrowed artery carrying a collapsed balloon. Once the balloon was in place, it was inflated, reopening the artery.
After his heart attack in November, doctors implanted a wire scaffolding-like device called a stent to push away the blockage and prop open the artery walls. Reiner said that following such stent procedures, there always is a chance of re-narrowing and this is apparently what happened to Cheney.
At home on Tuesday, where Cheney was resting following Monday's procedure, he read mail, made telephone calls, checked on the progress of renovations and helped to unpack boxes.
The vice president and his family moved into their official residence on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory last Friday and first lady Laura Bush dropped by for tea.
Cheney is an unusually active and influential vice president. He headed Mr. Bush's transition team, played a major role in Cabinet and topersonnel selections and has helped the president forge foreign policy as well as a national energy policy. White House officials say Cheney is the adviser Mr. Bush most relies upon to make sure his agenda is carried out.
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