Pennsylvania Gov. Shapiro’s Fetterman Problem - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Pennsylvania Gov. Shapiro’s Fetterman Problem

In truth, this news is self-evidently sad. 

Here’s the headline from Penn Live, the online version of the Patriot-News, the newspaper in Harrisburg: 

Sen. John Fetterman of Pa. hospitalized for clinical depression, staff says

This was the headline from the Philadelphia Inquirer

John Fetterman has checked into Walter Reed hospital for clinical depression

Fetterman’s office said he has struggled with that concern for years but that it only became severe in recent weeks.

And from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the paper that covers Western Pennsylvania:

Sen. John Fetterman checks himself into the hospital for clinical depression

To be clear, I feel nothing but sympathy for Sen. Fetterman and his family. In a year’s time, he has had first a stroke and now this.

But last year during his Senate race, as a member of the Penn Live editorial board, I raised the health issue with Fetterman personally when he came before the board to make the case for his candidacy.

At the time, I told him that in my youth I had served as executive assistant to Pennsylvania’s then-Sen. John Heinz. At the time, Heinz was in his mid-40s, in great physical shape, and a fountain of energy. As was the case with other Heinz staffers, I would have my time running around Pennsylvania from one end of this very big state to the other with Heinz. I was in my early 30s and in good shape, and even then, keeping up with the energetic and vigorous Heinz was a challenge.  

A senator’s job, I learned, in addition to traveling all over the state, requires serious participation in Senate committee hearings, and lots of time is also required for debates on the Senate floor. I learned firsthand from John Heinz that being a United States senator from Pennsylvania is work — serious hard work. It requires, at a minimum, physical and mental stamina to do the very basics of the job.

Clearly, as I and a lot of other Pennsylvanians suspected, the then-Lt. Gov. Fetterman of 2022 was not capable of this. But Democrats went ahead and nominated and then elected him anyway.

Now, as this is written, Pennsylvania has only one U.S. senator on the job. (And in fact, Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr. has been momentarily sidetracked with surgery for prostate cancer. But this will be, by all accounts, resolved with this surgery. Casey, we’re told, is recovering and will be back in business if he isn’t already. Good for him.)

The question now?

What will Pennsylvania’s new — and thoroughly healthy — Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro — do? As governor, Shapiro is exactly the only person in state government who can appoint someone to a vacant Senate seat. But obviously, until and unless Fetterman resigns, there is no vacancy. 

This is not good.

With a stroke and now clinical depression hobbling Fetterman within a single year — not to mention that only days ago he voluntarily entered another hospital as a result of being “lightheaded,” something that had him hospitalized for two days before he checked out — it is crystal clear that Fetterman is in no shape to serve in the United States Senate.

Thus Shapiro finds himself in a decidedly awkward position. If he is perceived in any fashion as pressuring Fetterman to resign, the far left in his party will accuse him of “ableism,” discriminating against a disabled person. If he does nothing, Pennsylvania will be bereft of a United States senator, putting all the weight of carrying on for Fetterman on Casey, who surely needs some time to recover.

Which is to say, at this moment, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that does not have its full complement of two active, physically capable United States senators. Casey, one presumes, will recover shortly.

That’s not to mention that with Fetterman absent, the Senate Democrats are reduced to a precarious one-seat majority.

But it is increasingly crystal clear that Fetterman has serious health problems that are not going away any time soon — if at all.

Which, again, brings attention to Shapiro’s dilemma. 

Just off hand, it would seem that the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania should rally to Shapiro and request for Fetterman to resign — and let a new Shapiro-appointed Democrat senator get on with the work of representing and working for Pennsylvanians in the United States Senate.

Will it happen? Don’t bet the ranch.

But stay tuned.

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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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