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Fetterman Struggles In Senate Despite Previous Assurances He ‘Can Work Full Duty’


  • Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. John Fetterman said on Thursday he has “lost [his] ability to fully process language,” and cannot communicate with his family and staff without special technology.
  • Concerns about Fetterman’s health arose after he suffered a life-threatening stroke in 2022; months after the event, his doctor said he was “speaking intelligently” and “has no work restrictions.” 
  • A number of special accommodations have been made for Fetterman, such as a new policy relaxing the Senate’s dress code dubbed the “Fetterman rule” by Republicans.

Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. John Fetterman said he has “lost [his] ability to fully process language” during a Senate hearing last week, despite previous assurances from his family, doctors and Democratic lawmakers that he is fully functioning and capable.

Fetterman said he is unable to communicate with his family and staff unless he uses special transcription technology and became emotional describing his mental state during a Senate hearing on Thursday. Concerns about Fetterman’s health arose during his 2022 senatorial campaign after he suffered a stroke; following the event, his doctor said he could “work full duty,” and Fetterman himself said he was “able to serve and to be running” for Congress.

“I had a stroke about 18 months ago, I’ve lost my ability to fully process language,” Fetterman said during the hearing. “Without this kind of technology (referring to a voice-to-text transcription app on his phone), I couldn’t watch television.”

Five months after he had a stroke in May 2022, Fetterman went to the hospital for a follow-up exam, and publicly released a note from his doctor stating that he “spoke intelligently” and was able to “work full duty in public office.”

“He spoke intelligently without cognitive deficits,” Fetterman’s doctor wrote in the note. “Fetterman is well and shows strong commitment to painting good fitness and health practices. He has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office.”

Fetterman dismissed calls from critics that he should drop out of Pennsylvania’s senatorial race in 2022, and continued his campaign work normally after being released from the hospital, stating that he was “ready to serve.” Fetterman’s top aide, Adam Jentleson, later said in 2023 that rushing back to the campaign trail rather than taking time to rest likely caused Fetterman permanent brain damage.

Fetterman rejected multiple challenges from Dr. Mehmet Oz, his Republican opponent in the senatorial race, to debate, until finally agreeing to do one alone in late October 2022. At the event, the former Braddock mayor struggled to speak coherently during the debate and later blamed it on a transcription service provided to him courtesy of News Nation and Nexstar, which hosted the debate and said it went to “extraordinary lengths” to accommodate Fetterman’s “last minute requests.”

Less than 20% of viewers believed Fetterman won the debate; corporate media largely reported that the event favored Oz because of his experience on television. Despite his poor performance, Fetterman continued to hold strong in the polls and received support from President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama.

“The President has found [Fetterman] to be impressive – an incredibly bright and talented person who’s just as capable as always to carry out the duties of his office,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in October 2022.

After he beat out Oz and won Pennsylvania’s senate race, Fetterman continued his long-standing tradition of wearing casual clothing in professional settings, regularly donning a hoodie and shorts during his day-to-day operations on Capitol Hill. The New York Times rated Fetterman as one of the most stylish people of 2022, touting his efforts to “bring Carhartt to the Capitol.”

Fetterman admitted himself to the hospital for clinical depression months into his tenure in 2023. Calls for his resignation during this time were ignored by Pennsylvania’s state governor, who said that citizens of the state would have Fetterman as their senator “for a long time.”

“He’s going to get the help that he needs, and do a great job for the people of Pennsylvania as their senator for a long time,” Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said in February. “And if I did [receive calls for Fetterman to resign], I would dismiss it immediately.”

Fetterman was allowed to stay in his senatorial role while in the hospital, while his staff completed his work in his absence; he was discharged from the hospital in March and returned to the Senate in April. Despite being given special accommodations for his role, such as the use of a voice-to-text transcription service for hearings and briefings, Fetterman appears to still struggle with speech and auditory processing.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Sunday that the upper chamber would no longer require a dress code, which previously required members to wear business attire. Republican lawmakers demanded Schumer reverse the new policy which is now being referred to as the “Fetterman rule.”

Fetterman did not respond to a request for comment.

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One Comment

  1. The only block that Fetterman checks is having a “D” after his name. The Dems just wanted a warm body in there to keep their majority in the Senate. Fetterman is useless and cannot string a coherent sentence together. He is so bad that he makes Biden look like a genius and that takes some doing.

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