PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Just over one month into his new role in Washington, Pennsylvania U.S. Senator John Fetterman checked into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for clinical depression treatment.
Since then, he's continued his work in a limited capacity.
What can and can't Senator John Fetterman do while in treatment?
Brown University professor and political scientist Dr. Wendy Schiller
WHAT WE FOUND
Fetterman can't vote until he returns in person, as Senate rules require members of the chamber to be present for a roll call vote.
With a razor-thin majority, Dr. Schiller says Fetterman's absence puts Democrats in a tight spot.
"Even though they have a 51 to 49, technically with independents caucusing with them, a majority they for need roll call votes, they need a majority of senators on the floor voting their way," Dr. Schiller said.
There could also be times when Fetterman's absence causes a roadblock for the committees he's appointed to.
"There may be an instance where the Republicans who are the minority party in the Senate require a majority of all people who sit on the committee in order for that committee to meet," Dr. Schiller said. "If Senator Fetterman is not there, that's going to possibly prevent the committee from meeting."
Still, there are plenty of things Fetterman can do while seeking inpatient care.
"He can agree to co-sponsor legislation with his colleagues, he can even sponsor legislation, although it's more difficult to do," Dr. Schiller said. "Because the committees can be virtually zoomed, senators can participate now virtually."
He's also able to engage with his constituents, mostly in virtual settings like social media and electronic communication.
However, Dr. Schiller says missing time as a newcomer to Capitol Hill has more implications than just missing some votes.
"You really want to try to make an impression in Washington with your colleagues," Dr. Schiller said. "And so that's gonna require him to play a little bit of catch-up when he returns."
However, Fetterman is not the only member of the senate out of the mix.
Minority leader Mitch McConnell is expected to miss a few days due to a concussion, and California senator Dianne Feinstein is home recovering from shingles.
Pennsylvania's Senior Senator Bob Casey also missed a couple of weeks following surgery for prostate cancer.