John Fetterman Expected Back to Senate April 17 Following Treatment for Depression

FILE - Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., leaves an intelligence briefing on the unknown aerial objects the U.S. military shot down this weekend at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 14, 2023. Fetterman is in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to seek treatment for clinical depression. His office said Thursday that Fetterman checked himself in Wednesday night. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

By Associated Press

March 30, 2023

Fetterman was barely a month into his first term as US Senator and still recovering from the aftereffects of a stroke when he entered the hospital to receive inpatient treatment for clinical depression.

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman will return to the Senate in April, two months after the freshman Democrat sought inpatient treatment for clinical depression, a person close to Fetterman said Wednesday.

The person, who was not authorized to discuss Fetterman’s plans and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Fetterman will return the week of April 17.

It was not immediately clear when Fetterman would leave Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he checked in Feb. 15 after weeks of what aides described as Fetterman being withdrawn and uninterested in eating, discussing work, or the usual banter with staff.

Fetterman, 53, was barely a month into his service in Washington and still recovering from the aftereffects of the stroke he suffered last May during his campaign when he went to Walter Reed on the advice of the Capitol physician, Dr. Brian P. Monahan.

Fetterman was hospitalized for two days in early February after he reported feeling lightheaded. Tests showed no signs of another stroke or seizure, and he returned to work several days later. 

Doctors say post-stroke depression is common, with 1 in 3 stroke patients experiencing it, and treatable, through antidepressant medication and counseling.

Last month, Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle commended Fetterman for his transparency about his depression, saying his openness about his struggles could help destigmatize mental health issues.

Fetterman is receiving daily in-person briefings by chief of staff Adam Jentleson, according to a spokesperson, while issuing statements through his office and sponsoring legislation. Aides are opening new regional offices throughout Pennsylvania.

On Thursday, Fetterman joined fellow Pennsylvania Democratic senator Bob Casey, and Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown in introducing the Railway Accountability Act to address additional long-standing rail safety concerns, protect workers, and help prevent future harm to rail-side communities across the country.

Fetterman succeeded Republican Sen. Pat Toomey after a hard-fought contest against Republican nominee Mehmet Oz. He defeated the celebrity heart surgeon by 5 percentage points and flipped a seat that was key to Democrats holding the Senate majority. 

His campaign was derailed on May 13 when he suffered what he later called a near-fatal stroke. Fetterman underwent surgery to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator to manage two heart conditions, atrial fibrillation and cardiomyopathy. He refused to drop out and spent much of the remaining months of the campaign in recovery.

Oz’s campaign made an issue of whether Fetterman was honest about the effects of the stroke and whether he was fit to serve, openly mocking his health at times.

In an Associated Press profile just weeks after his victory, Fetterman was described as still suffering from auditory processing disorder, a stroke’s common aftereffect. The disorder can leave a person unable to speak fluidly and quickly process spoken conversation into meaning.

The effects of the stroke were apparent in Fetterman’s uneven performance during the fall campaign’s only debate. He struggled to complete sentences and jumbled words, causing concern among Democrats that his election was doomed.

Fetterman uses devices in conversations, meetings, and congressional hearings that transcribe spoken words in real time.

On election night, he told cheering supporters he ran for “anyone that ever got knocked down that got back up.”

Fetterman’s return will be welcome news for Democrats who have struggled to find votes for some nominations, in particular, without Fetterman there.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has also been absent for several weeks recovering from a case of the shingles, and the two absences have made some votes difficult in Democrats’ single-vote, 51-49 majority.

Republicans have also dealt with some absences of their own, notably Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been at home recovering from a fall. McConnell could also return as soon as the week of April 17.

Keystone managing editor Patrick Berkery contributed to this report.


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