Democrat Senator John Fetterman Set to Chair First Subcommittee Hearing Days After Returning From Weeks-Long Absence

Democrat Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania will chair a Senate panel set to examine federal food benefits later this week in his first hearing as chairman of a congressional subcommittee. 

Fetterman was expected to return to Capitol Hill Monday after being away for two months receiving depression treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center. In a Monday statement, his office confirmed the senator would be leading his first hearing Wednesday. It slammed Republicans’ push for stricter work requirements for food stamp benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Food Assistance Program, known as SNAP. 

“Cut SNAP for families and kids while pushing cuts for billionaires?” the brief statement from Fetterman began. “Not on my watch.”

“Sen. Fetterman on Wednesday will chair his first subcommittee hearing, 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,” added his office in a press release.

After flipping Pennsylvania’s Senate seat in the 2022 midterms, the freshman senator scored the sought-after subcommittee gavel. The win was critical to expanding the Democrat majority in Congress’s upper chamber.

Days before his May primary election against former Democrat House Representative Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, Fetterman suffered a stroke that took him away from the campaign trail until August.

While he was hospitalized for depression, Senator Fetterman kept in regular contact with the leadership in his office, including in-person visits, according to the senator’s top office staff.

Fetterman cosponsored a series of bills, received updates on congressional business, and submitted one bill as a primary sponsor — the Railway Accountability Act, with Democrat Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Bob Casey, Jr., of Pennsylvania, after the toxic train derailment near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. 

Although senators are not allowed to vote remotely, Fetterman was permitted to submit a statement along with questions for the CEO of the Norfolk Southern rail company. 

Beginning March 1, Fetterman’s official Senate Twitter account saw an uptick in routine commentary about current events and Senate happenings, although his personal account remained less active.

The senator’s wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, also provided updates and photos on her social media. 

Meanwhile, the senator’s congressional staff opened additional district offices in Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh and hired staff.

Growing concerns about Fetterman’s capability to serve, some legitimate and some steeped in partisan rhetoric, were floated on social media. Online attacks about the senator’s fitness, similar to those during the campaign last year, post-stroke, continue. 

Fetterman returned home after hospital discharge on March 31

Senator Fetterman returned to his home in Braddock, Pennsylvania, after his hospital discharge on March 31. Two days before his discharge, Fetterman sat with Jane Pauley, a CBS reporter, where he spoke about his depression and recovery. 

Senate accommodations have been made to help facilitate the senator’s lingering auditory processing issues. According to a Washington Post February report, those accommodations include a monitor that provides closed captioning and live transcriptions for committees he sits on.

The Wednesday hearing is expected to feature senators discussing House Republicans’ plans to impose stricter work requirements for individuals who qualify for the federal SNAP program. 

House Republican lawmakers have floated the idea in exchange for agreeing to raise the $31.4 trillion U.S. debt ceiling, which Democrats oppose. 

The Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics, and Research subcommittee will hold the hearing.