It’s been over a month since Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) voluntarily checked himself into the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to seek treatment for severe depression resulting from his struggle to adapt to life in the U.S. Senate while dealing with cognitive impairments from his stroke last year. While his staff has reported positive progress in his recovery, the information they’ve been willing to share about his condition has been limited, raising doubts about his ability to continue serving in the Senate.
I’ve never been convinced by the reports from Fetterman’s staff about his condition. His aides have a history of shifting the goalposts and providing vague updates about his progress. Instead of addressing the issue head-on, they seem content to string everyone along with empty promises and non-specific statements.
Sen. Fetterman is not the only Democratic senator taking a suspicious absence from the Senate. Dianne Feinstein, the senior senator from California, was hospitalized earlier this month with shingles and was expected to return to the Senate by the end of the month. However, weeks have passed with no new updates on her progress or a timeline for her return.
The hospitalization of both Sens. Feinstein and Fetterman has resulted in a temporary loss of the Democratic majority in the Senate, which is now evenly split 49-49. This leaves Vice President Kamala Harris as the potential tie-breaking vote. The situation could pose a significant challenge to President Biden’s efforts to push through judicial nominees, especially since Sen. Feinstein is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s worth noting that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is also currently recovering from his recent fall.
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Still, Feinstein’s absence raises a whole other set of questions. Though she is reportedly being treated for shingles, a number of her Democrat colleagues in Congress expressed concern over her cognitive decline last year, and there was talk of trying to persuade her to retire.
“I have worked with her for a long time and long enough to know what she was like just a few years ago: always in command, always in charge, on top of the details, basically couldn’t resist a conversation where she was driving some bill or some idea. All of that is gone,” an anonymous Democrat member of Congress told the San Francisco Chronicle last April. “She was an intellectual and political force not that long ago, and that’s why my encounter with her was so jarring. Because there was just no trace of that.”
About a year has passed since then, and Sen. Feinstein has done little to inspire confidence in her cognitive abilities. Just last month, she seemed perplexed when questioned about her previously announced retirement.
It is concerning that Feinstein’s mental health has been declining for a while now, yet her party has allowed her to remain in her position without much accountability. It is not reassuring to see a senator with cognitive impairment being potentially manipulated by her staff to maintain her position in the Senate. The same can be said about Sen. Fetterman, who allegedly lied about his cognitive impairments during his campaign to secure his position. I dare say that the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg displayed similar hubris by not retiring despite her rapidly declining health.
The Democratic Party is notorious for sinking to the lowest of lows to maintain and increase its power. This hold-onto-power-at-all-costs mindset appears as though it may have contributed to two members prioritizing a Senate seat over their own personal health.