2 Senators Go Back to Work

Mitch McConnell, John Fetterman return to the Capitol after lengthy absences
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 17, 2023 9:55 AM CDT
2 Senators Go Back to Work
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks following a policy meeting at the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 28. McConnell will be back at work on Monday, almost six weeks after a fall at a Washington-area hotel and undergoing extended treatment for a concussion.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The Senate is a little more full on Monday, but just as red and blue: Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman will be back at work in the US Capitol on Monday, reports the AP. McConnell's return comes almost six weeks after a fall at a Washington-area hotel and extended treatment for a concussion. The longtime Kentucky senator, 81, has been recovering at home since he was released from a rehabilitation facility on March 25. He fell after attending an event earlier that month, injuring his head and fracturing a rib. He visited his office Friday, the first time since his injury, and is expected to be working a full schedule in the Senate this week. "I am looking forward to returning to the Senate on Monday," McConnell tweeted on Thursday. "We've got important business to tackle and big fights to win for Kentuckians and the American people."

The Senate has a busy stretch ahead in which Congress will have to find a way to raise the nation's debt ceiling and negotiate additional aid for the Ukraine war. Several senators have been out for medical reasons, raising questions about how much the Senate will be able to achieve in coming months with a 51-49 split. Already, the GOP leader's absence, along with those of Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Fetterman, among others, have added to the Senate's lethargic pace in the first few months of the year. Unlike the last two years, in which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was able to push through key elements of President Biden's agenda with the help of a Democratic-led House, the Senate has been significantly slowed with Republicans now in charge in the House. And absences have made even simple votes like nominations more difficult.

One immediate question for McConnell upon his return is whether to help Democrats temporarily replace Feinstein on the Senate Judiciary Committee as she continues to recover in California from shingles. Democrats have become increasingly frustrated as the Democrat's more than six-week absence on the panel has stalled confirmation of Biden's nominees, and Feinstein has asked for a short-term substitute on the committee. Democrats can't do that, though, without help from Republicans, as approval of the process would take 60 votes on the Senate floor. Republicans have so far been quiet about whether they will object. It's unclear when Feinstein, 89, will return to Washington.

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Also returning to the Senate is Fetterman, who was hospitalized for clinical depression in February. He was treated for six weeks at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and his doctors say his depression is now "in remission." Fetterman's announcement that he was checking himself into the hospital came after he suffered a stroke last year and has struggled with auditory processing disorder, which can render someone unable to speak fluidly and quickly process spoken conversation into meaning. The Pennsylvania Democrat, 53, now uses devices that transcribe spoken words in real time. In a statement when he was released from Walter Reed late last month, Fetterman said the care he received there "changed my life." "I'm excited to be the father and husband I want to be, and the senator Pennsylvania deserves,” said Fetterman, who won praise for his decision to seek treatment.

(More Mitch McConnell stories.)

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