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John Fetterman's First Hearing Gets Off to a Very Rocky Start

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) is back on the Hill after a lengthy hospital stay to treat clinical depression. What started as a few weeks' stay turned into weeks with reports that the Pennsylvania Democrat wouldn’t be released until mid-April. Fetterman’s doctors were reportedly trying to figure out his medication. As soon as that news broke, the former Braddock mayor was discharged on March 31. We’re glad that the senator is doing better with his mental health issues, but it doesn’t mitigate the cognitive ones impacting his ability to do his job. 


Mr. Fetterman suffered a severe stroke in April of 2022, which sidelined him for weeks. He almost died. Instead of bowing out, he exhausted the critical period for recovery to hit the campaign trail, a decision that those close to him might have led to permanent brain damage. It’s evident. Mr. Fetterman is the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and the opening remarks didn’t go well. Even the Washington Post had to include he stumbled a bit

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) presided over his first subcommittee hearing Wednesday since his election to the Senate, continuing his readjustment to the Capitol after a two-month absence for treatment for clinical depression and ongoing recovery from a stroke he suffered last year. 

Though his voice stumbled at times while reading from prepared notes, Fetterman appeared in good spirits as he gaveled in a hearing focused on the benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Republicans have proposed increasing the number of people who must meet work requirements to qualify for SNAP. 

“Hunger is not a Republican or a Democrat issue. It’s all of our issue that we have to take it on,” said Fetterman, chairman of the subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics and Research. “We need to come together and stop playing political games with Americans’ access to food.” 


Fetterman has also been recovering from a stroke he suffered in May, days before he overwhelmingly won the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania’s Senate race. The stroke, which required Fetterman to have a defibrillator installed, sidelined him from the campaign trail for about two months and left him with an auditory-processing disorder that inhibited his ability to hear, especially when there is competing background noise. 


Look, the man can’t do this for six years. He’s a placeholder whose seat is safe since Pennsylvania has a Democratic governor who can appoint his replacement. He can’t vacate right now; Fetterman needs to tread water for a few months and then resign. That’s why he’s presiding over committees where fights aren’t bound to erupt, like agriculture, where the day-to-day business is slow-paced and non-controversial. Still, I think even the most ardent Keystone liberal voter would at least have to admit that Mr. Fetterman cannot serve a full term.


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