Fetterman and McConnell return to the Senate, but Feinstein remains in California

Key Points
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Fetterman, D-Penn., both returned to the Senate on Monday after weeks long medical absences.
  • The Senate minority leader suffered a fall on March 8, while Fetterman sought inpatient treatment for depression on Feb. 15.
  • Their return underscored the ongoing questions about California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who revealed in March that she had been hospitalized for shingles, and has not announced when she will be back.
U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) waves to reporters as he arrives at the U.S. Capitol on April 17, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Sen. John Fetterman both returned to the Capitol on Monday after significant medical absences, leaving only one senator, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, still away with no firm return date.

McConnell, 81, suffered a concussion and a broken rib from a March 8 fall at a Washington hotel. After several days in the hospital, the Kentucky Republican was moved to a rehab facility.

"Suffice to say this was not the first time being hardheaded has served me very well," McConnell quipped Monday, during his first remarks on the Senate floor since the fall. "Needless to say, I am very happy to be back."

Fetterman, a 53-year-old from Pennsylvania, stepped away from the Senate in February to seek inpatient treatment for clinical depression at Water Reed Army Medical Center. He was released from the hospital in late March.

"I want everyone to know that depression is treatable, and treatment works," Fetterman said in a statement after return home from the hospital. "This isn't about politics — right now there are people who are suffering with depression in red counties and blue counties. If you need help, please get help." 

The return of both Fetterman and McConnell this week after the Senate's Easter recess has served to highlight the one senator who has not returned from their prolonged medical absence: the California lawmaker Feinstein, an 89-year-old who last voted in the Senate in early February. As the Democratic caucus holds a 51-49 majority in the chamber and slim advantages on its committees, absences can stifle the progress of bills and nominations.

In March, Feinstein announced she had been hospitalized due to shingles, and said she hoped to return to Washington soon. But there is still no firm date for the senator's return.

The fresh doubts about Feinstein's health come in addition to longstanding questions about her mental acuity. This combination has sparked first private, and now increasingly public, calls for Feinstein to step down before 2025, when her current term in office ends.

But the senator has refused the pressure and dug in. In a statement last week, she said, "I intend to return as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it's safe for me to travel. In the meantime, I remain committed to the job and will continue to work from home in San Francisco."

Feinstein did make one concession, agreeing to let Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer ask the Senate to approve his request to let someone temporarily fill her spot on the Judiciary Committee. The panel votes on whether to advance President Joe Biden's judicial nominees.

But in order to fill that spot, Schumer needs either unanimous consent from senators to avoid a vote, or else 10 Republicans to vote with Democrats to break a filibuster.

As of Monday, several Republican senators had already announced they would not green light a replacement by unanimous consent. The odds of 10 Republicans crossing party lines to help Democrats also looked bleak.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Schumer said he was still optimistic that Republicans would help him fill Feinstein's committee spot, and he intended to put it to a vote this week. But he declined to speculate on when Feinstein might return to the Senate.

"I spoke to Senator Feinstein just a few days ago. She believes she will return soon. She's very hopeful of that, and so am I," said Schumer.