Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro said Monday he does not expect Senator John Fetterman to resign and that there is “no contingency plan” to choose a replacement.
Fetterman entered Walter Reed Army Medical Center on February 16 for impatient treatment for “severe” depression after being hospitalized for light-headedness after State of the Union and suffering a stroke in May.
The Democratic senator’s office said on Monday he “remains on the road to recovery,” but did not release further details.
He has stayed off social media since checking into the hospital in Bethesda while his wife Gisele posted last week that she briefly brought their kids to Canada once they figured out how to “navigate this journey.”
Shapiro, also a Democrat, would be responsible for choosing Fetterman’s interim replacement if he decides to relinquish his seat, with a special election to serve the remainder of his six-year term on Election Day in November 2024.
There is no plan for D-Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman (left) to resign, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro (right) said in an interview Monday. Fetterman has been with Walter Reed for nearly two weeks after he checked into Bethesda Hospital to be treated for depression
In an interview with NBC News On Monday, Shapiro said he expects the 53-year-old Fetterman to “serve for a long time,” adding that he didn’t feel Democrats were pressuring Fetterman to quit, nor were they forcing him to stay in his seat.
Pennsylvania’s other Democratic Senator Bob Casey is up for re-election in November 2024, so Democrats would have to defend two seats in a highly competitive swing state if Fetterman dropped out.
When asked if there is a contingency plan in case Fetterman decides he wants to step down, Shapiro told the network, “There is no contingency plan and it is 100 percent Senator Fetterman’s decision what to do going forward. ‘
White House deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton was asked on Tuesday if the president was concerned that Fetterman’s possible week-long absence could complicate the confirmation process for his newly announced choice of labor secretary, Julie Su.
Dalton said she had “nothing left to read” and reiterated that the president and first lady were “thinking about John, Gisele, and the whole family right now.”
“Millions of Americans go untreated with depression every day, Senator Fetterman did the right and brave thing in getting the help he needs,” she added. “And we’re grateful to Senator Fetterman for leading by example and taking the time he needs to get well.”
Gisele Fetterman (above left) said she brought the couple’s children to Canada in the days after her husband checked into Walter Reed for inpatient therapy to treat major depression
Senator John Fetterman poses with his family and Vice President Kamala Harris during his ceremonial swearing-in on Jan. 3
Dalton could not say whether the president had personally spoken to Fetterman in the nearly two weeks since he had been hospitalized.
Shapiro told NBC he texted Gisele.
And I hope he gets the care he needs. It was brave for him to do that, to ask for help, to ask for that care,” Shapiro noted.
“I think in this country we have a real stigma associated with asking for help if you have mental health issues and the fact that Senator Fetterman, who is obviously a very public figure, raised his hand and said I needed help, and was able to check herself in to get that help, I think that’s very inspiring,” Shapiro also said. “And I hope that not only does he get the help, but I hope others who are watching can maybe lessen some of that stigma that comes with getting that care and start taking care of themselves.”
In the days after Fetterman checked in with Walter Reed, a senior aide told NBC News he is expected to stay out of the Senate for weeks as the hearing progresses.
It will take time for doctors to get Fetterman’s medication right, the network said.
A senior aide told NBC it was hard to distinguish between the senator’s stroke recovery and the depression, with the aide saying it’s sometimes unclear if he “doesn’t hear you,” or if he’s a little crippled due to his depression and social anxiety.
Senator John Fetterman (left) and his wife Gisele (right) in the Pennsylvania capitol for the swearing in of Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro in January
The then Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is pictured on election night after defeating Trump-backed Republican, Dr. Mehmet Oz, in what was probably the most watched Senate race in the country
Senator John Fetterman is captured in late January while riding the Senate subway between the Capitol and Senate office buildings
CNN reported that Fetterman’s symptoms included weight loss and lack of appetite, which led to his stay at George Washington University Hospital in the days leading up to his Walter Reed stay.
Adam Jentleson, Fetterman’s chief of staff, had said the senator “had been intermittently depressed all his life,” but finally decided to seek treatment when he was examined by Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician of the United States Congress.
That reports the New York Times earlier this month that the Democrat was struggling to adjust to life as a senator.
Fetterman declined an interview with the newspaper, but aides and allies said the already difficult transition to the Senate was “made immensely more difficult by the strains of his recovery,” noting that it left him with “a physical disability and serious mental health issues.” worried. ‘
He still suffers from auditory processing issues, which means he must use devices that provide him with closed captioning to interact with his Senate colleagues and voters and participate in committee hearings.
When people talk to Fetterman, he hears something similar to what the grown-ups in the Peanuts cartoons sound like: shrieks brought on by a muffled trombone, The Times reported.
In addition to the hearing problem – which worsens when Fetterman feels stressed – the Times reported that the stroke recovery had taken a “very real psychological toll” on the politician.
According to the Stroke Association, up to one-third of stroke patients develop symptoms of depression.
Fetterman’s political brand was somewhat tied to his unconventional badass appearance — standing six feet tall, with tattooed arms, a shaved head, and a goatee — the former mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, looked like he had come straight out of a steel mill in Pittsburgh came.
But, as The Times put it, the stroke turned him into a “physically altered version of himself” and the senator is “frustrated” that he has not fully recovered.
In addition, Fetterman was reportedly concerned that he might have set himself back permanently, as he did not take enough time to rest during the campaign.
“What you have to do to recover from this is to do as little as possible,” Jentleson had told the paper. Instead, Fetterman was “forced to do as much as he could — he had to get back on the campaign trail. It’s hard to claw that back.”
Allies of his Republican Senate rival, Dr. Mehmet Oz, questioned his mental capacity as Fetterman spent most of the summer on the sidelines and out of public view.
“If John Fetterman were elected to the Senate and he is unable to communicate effectively, if he is unable to deal with the press, if he is unable to deal with his colleagues, then he couldn’t do the job,” Pennsylvania’s outgoing Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said in September.
“It’s just not possible to be an effective senator if you can’t communicate. It’s just the gist of the job,” Toomey added, pressuring Fetterman to debate Oz.
Fetterman debated Oz in late October, with his rocky performance upsetting even the Democrats.
Fetterman’s speech was jumbled and he had to use closed captioning technology to understand the moderators and Oz’s reactions.
Still, Fetterman defeated Trump-backed Oz by five percentage points, giving the Democrats an additional Senate seat in what was arguably the most-watched Senate race of 2022.