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John Fetterman returns to Senate in hoodie and shorts

 April 18, 2023

Two Democratic senators, John Fetterman of Pennsylvania and Dianne Feinstein of California, had been missing from the Senate for health reasons over the past two months, undermining and negating the Democratic Party's control of the legislative body.

Sen. Fetterman returned to the Senate on Monday, however, wearing his signature hoodie and shorts ensemble, and told reporters that it was "great to be back," Axios reported.

Also returning after a similar absence for health reasons was Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, which returns the Senate GOP to its full contingent of 49 members while Democrats remain one member shy of their 51-seat majority with the continued indefinite absence of Feinstein.

Fetterman returns

According to Axios, Sen. Fetterman had checked himself into the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington D.C. in mid-February to receive treatment for clinical depression, which was likely linked to his recovery from a near-fatal stroke suffered in May 2022 while campaigning for the Senate seat he now occupies.

The Pennsylvania senator had been released from the hospital on March 31 and returned to his hometown of Braddock to complete his recovery with a planned return to the Senate following the two-week break for Easter.

He arrived at the Capitol on Monday afternoon and waved to reporters, saying, "It's great to be back. Thank you," but declined to answer any other questions.

Fetterman to chair subcommittee hearing

The Daily Mail reported that Sen. Fetterman was expected to take part in a vote Monday evening, his first vote cast since February 15, as well as to chair an Agriculture Committee subcommittee hearing on Wednesday that will be focused on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps.

According to his office, "Sen. Fetterman on Wednesday will chair his first subcommittee hearing in the Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics, and Research for a hearing will focus specifically on SNAP and the critical assistance it provides to working families through the upcoming Farm Bill."

The senator has reportedly been working with his staff throughout his absence on drafting that farm bill as well as another piece of legislation dealing with railroad safety.

McConnell returns

The Hill reported that Senate GOP Leader McConnell also returned to work on Monday after being briefly hospitalized with a concussion and fractured rib suffered in a fall on March 8 at a fundraiser event at a hotel in D.C.

"This wasn’t the first time that being hardheaded has served me very well," the Kentucky senator joked in a floor speech. "We’re truly lucky and blessed that we get to serve in this remarkable institution, represent our home states, and serve our country."

"Needless to say, I’m very happy to be back," he added as he proceeded to get back to business with remarks that were focused on Republican policy priorities and were critical of President Joe Biden's administration.

Feinstein remains out of action

Still missing from the legislative body, however, is Sen. Feinstein, who has been recovering at home in California for roughly two months following a brief hospitalization in mid-February to receive treatment for a case of shingles.

Feinstein issued a statement last week to announce that her return to D.C. has been further delayed and asked for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York to temporarily replace her on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but such a move would require the support of Senate Republicans and they have made it clear that they are uninterested in aiding their partisan rivals in that regard, Bloomberg News reported.

The problem for Democrats is that the important Judiciary Committee is now evenly split between the two parties with Feinstein's prolonged absence, which has made it difficult or even impossible for committee Democrats to approve President Biden's more controversial and partisan judicial nominees.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Democratic voices, predominately from the party's progressive wing, have been calling for Feinstein to immediately resign or retire so that a replacement who is able to perform the job of senator can be picked and installed and return the Senate Democratic majority to its full strength.