Fetterman back in hoodies and gym shorts, grappling with Senator life after depression treatment

WASHINGTON (AP) – Before Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman was admitted to the hospital In February, he walked the Senate halls in formal suits with a stiff face because of clinical depression.Recently he started wearing a hoodie and gym pants He was known even before he became a senator.

Male senators are required to wear jackets and ties on the Senate floor, but Fetterman has a workaround. He votes from the doorway or side door of the Democrats’ cloakroom, makes sure his “yes” or “nos” voice is recorded, and then leaves. Between polls last week, Mr. Fetterman kept his hoodie on for a press conference with four suit-wearing Democratic colleagues, and the 6-foot-8-tall Mr. Fetterman towered above his peers. rice field.

People close to Fetterman say his relaxed and comfortable style is a sign that the senator is recovering well after six weeks of hospital treatment. At the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he was treated with medication for clinical depression and was fitted with hearing aids for his hearing loss, which made communication difficult.his hospitalization occurred less than a year after his stroke He nearly lost his life while campaigning for the Senate, but says he is still recovering.

“He has a new dress code,” jokes Vermont Senator Peter Welch. He’s the only other newly elected Democrat in the Senate, and spent a lot of time with Fetterman at orientation at the beginning of the year. “He was having a hard time. And now he’s such a fun person to be with.”

Senators sometimes vote in plain clothes. Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, for example, is known to sometimes show up to vote in gym clothes. But Fetterman’s everyday wear is redefining stuffy Senate fashion. He is the center of attention every day as he walks down the hallways in Carhartt’s signature baggy sweatshirt and baggy gym shorts, and his burly figure hangs around the Capitol, far more formal-dressed Washington-type. surrounded by people.

The senator’s staff initially asked him to wear a suit at all times, but he famously hated it. However, upon his return, he confirmed with the senators that he could continue to wear his uniform at his home in Pennsylvania as long as he did not go to the Senate floor.

Mr. Welch said Mr. Fetterman was quiet and withdrawn when he first came to Washington, often sitting in the back at closed-door caucuses. Now he stands up and talks, occasionally joking and making fun of Democrat Bob Casey, a senior Senator from Pennsylvania.

Fetterman, Welch and Alabama Republican Senator Katie Britt became friends at orientation, and the two colleagues remained close to him during his recovery. In the early days, Britt said, Fetterman was only seriously involved if she started a conversation, but the fact that she has children of a similar age and that Britt’s former football player husband Wesley is moving to Pennsylvania. The fact that he’s the same height as the state senator has strengthened their bond. When Fetterman checked into the hospital, Britt’s staff brought food to the office next to her.

Britt then visits Walter Reid at his request and finds Fetterman completely changed. “His energy and demeanor were totally different when I walked into the store that day,” Britt said in an interview.

Now he’s loud and gregarious, she says, even shouting “Alabama!” When he saw her in her hallway last week, he pumped her fist up and asked her about her husband and her family.

“It shows the difference treatment can make,” says Britt. “It’s incredible to see.”

Fetterman’s decision to seek treatment garners bipartisan praise a sharp turn from his colleague From his painful Senate campaign The election against Republican Mehmet Oz was the richest in the country.

Fetterman’s publicist Joe Calvero, who worked for him from the beginning of his campaign to before his stroke, said after a difficult year, Fetterman is getting back to his old self. Told. Since returning to the Senate on April 17, Mr. Fetterman has known the entire staff, befriended his Senate colleagues, and spoken out on progressive issues he campaigned for.

“It’s good to be on the other side of it,” Calvero said.

Fetterman stood in a suit with other senators last week to urge President Joe Biden to raise the debt ceiling on his own under the terms of the 14th Amendment, rather than negotiate with Republicans. ..He also questioned bank executives at the hearing Dressed in the same suit as he did at a committee meeting, he asked if Republicans should impose work requirements on food aid recipients similar to those proposed by Republicans in debt ceiling negotiations.

Due to the stroke, Fetterman is still speechless and at times difficult to understand.he has an auditory processing disorderThis makes it difficult to speak fluidly and makes it difficult to translate conversations into meaning quickly. He uses his iPad in conversations, meetings, and congressional hearings to transcribe words in real time, often appearing to peruse paper when speaking publicly. I have. He rarely talks to reporters in the hallway.

While questioning bank executives, his auditory processing difficulties caused his words to be garbled at times. “After we set sail on your bank and deposit billions of dollars in your bank, won’t there be a labor requirement?” Fetterman asked.

Conservatives who criticize the senator frequently jump on his stumbles and ridicule him on TV spots.

But his chief of staff, Adam Gentleson, tweeted that the bank hearing moment wasn’t scripted, and surprised himself.

“John Fetterman asked the CEO of Silicon Valley Bank whether working conditions should be set for the CEO who failed the bank. Readers, I nearly fell off my chair,” Gentle said. Mr Song wrote.

Voters who met with him said it may take some getting used to the difficulty of his conversations.

Pennsylvania Farmers Union President Michael Kovac said Mr. Fetterman appeared out of the blue when Mr. Kovac was meeting with senator staff in Washington. Fetterman was only two days away from home, but he stayed for about half an hour, using a transcription device to read Kovac’s response to a discussion about helping farmers to maintain good conservation practices on their land. .

Kovac said Fetterman asked thoughtful questions, made thoughtful comments, and joked about his beard envy for Kovac, who had a long, gray goatee.

“It’s the same Fetterman that I remember as lieutenant governor. It’s just difficult for him to communicate. So the elephant in the room is obviously the screen he’s reading on,” Kovacs said. rice field. “It’s a little distracting, but I got used to it quickly.”

Fetterman has also returned to social media, which was central to his pre-stroke campaign.Last week he posted Photo of himself and Welch Sitting in the Senate courtyard, wearing a hoodie and tweeting.

Welch plans to invite Fetterman and Britt to dinner at his house soon. Fetterman has been “working on his game” lately, Welch said.

Another Democratic colleague, Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, said Fetterman found himself “inwardly focused” when he arrived in Washington. However, he is now gregarious and joking.

“It’s really, really nice to see this. It’s a good message to send to people in need,” Duckworth said. “It makes a difference.”


Levy reported from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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