Pennsylvania Democrat Sen. John Fetterman suffered from illness during his campaign last year and has never really recovered.
Fetterman suffered a major stroke in May. He checked himself into a hospital to deal with rising bouts of depression following the major stroke last spring and lingering ill effects.
According to his chief of staff, the freshman senator checked into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center “to receive treatment for clinical depression,” according to CNN.
After staying off the campaign trail for a few months, he jumped back in time to engage in some fundraisers and a disastrous debate against his Trump-backed Republican opponent, TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, both of whom were vying for retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat.
Against the odds, Fetterman won the seat but never bounced back from his issues. In November, a Fetterman advisor admitted after his victory that he would not be able to perform his job as usual, Breitbart news reported.
Fetterman’s team recently said the topic of resignation was “never discussed and is not on the table” after he was admitted to the hospital a second time.
“While John has experienced depression off and on throughout his life, it only became severe in recent weeks,” said Adam Jentleson, Fetterman’s Chief of Staff. “After examining John, the doctors at Walter Reed told us that John is getting the care he needs, and will soon be back to himself.”
Last month, Washington County Republican Party Chair Sean Logue released a statement and questioned whether Fetterman “is able to carry out his duties as Senator.”
The statement continued: “We call upon Senator Fetterman to appear on camera to show us he is alive and well, and if he is unable to do so, we call upon our elected Representatives in Washington, Senator [Bob] Casey and Congressman [Guy] Reschenthaler, to intervene immediately.
“Ultimately, if Fetterman is unable or unwilling to carry out his duties as a United States Senator, then we ask for his resignation and call for a special election this year; no more lies or games.”
Shortly afterward, Fetterman’s communications director Joe Calvello said in a statement that the senator was “doing well” and “on a path to recovery,” adding: “He is visiting with staff and family daily, and his staff is keeping him updated on Senate business and news.”
Even though Fetterman’s camp keeps reiterating that he is on the mend, months of hospitalizations and various conditions have some worried about his ability to do the elected job.
In fact, over the weekend, Pennsylvania Republicans demanded that Fetterman release a video “to show us he is alive and well,” or face intervention from other lawmakers if he is “unable to do this.” If Fetterman is unable to serve, it could be a political game changer.
“If Fetterman resigns, it would trigger a special election, giving the GOP a chance to increase its Senate representation to 50. This would make the Democrats reliant on Senator Kyrsten Sinema (who became an independent in December but still caucuses with the party) and on the vice president’s casting vote to maintain overall control,” Newsweek reported.
In a statement announcing the self-check-in last month, Fetterman’s chief of staff noted further: “After examining John, the doctors at Walter Reed told us that John is getting the care he needs, and will soon be back to himself,” Conservative Brief reported. He also stated that Fetterman has experienced depression “off and on” over the course of his life, though the issue “only became severe in recent weeks.”
Although Fetterman deserves applause for his steadfastness in continuing to do his best to serve, many have questions about how long he can stay out of the action and the grueling day of a public servant.
Fetterman has been criticized for his lack of transparency in health matters. Forbes reported in February that the senator declined to release his medical records up until October, a month before the midterm election, and then only released a letter from his cardiologist. Since the stroke was last spring, Fetterman is coming up on a year of health issues and hospitalizations.
CNN reported that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed well wishes for Fetterman, acknowledging that his condition must be difficult not only for him but his family as well. “Millions of Americans, like John, struggle with depression each day. I am looking forward to seeing him return to the Senate soon. Sending love and support to John, Gisele, and their family,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted.
But other tweets show the sensitivity of Fetterman’s team and their clear denial that he is impaired:
“Spotted in Senate basement: John Fetterman He didn’t answer when I asked if he’ll be able to wear his hoodie on Senate floor,” Huffington Post reporter Igor Bobic said in a tweet that caught the eye of Fetterman advisor Rebecca Katz.
Two things we need to get out of the way:
1) John Fetterman has a suit and will wear it to the Capitol.
2) He is still recovering from a stroke and has lingering auditory processing challenges. The way Hill reporters are used to yelling questions at Senators will not work here. https://t.co/0UCe47d9QC
— Rebecca Katz (@RebeccaKKatz) November 15, 2022