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Sen. Bob Casey has faith Sen. John Fetterman can keep serving Pennsylvania

Election 2024 Senate
Matt Rourke/AP
FILE - Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., speaks before President Joe Biden at a campaign rally for Pennsylvania's Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro and Democratic Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Nov. 5, 2022, in Philadelphia. Casey has not said whether he intends to run for a fourth term. Casey easily won reelection in 2018, but Pennsylvania has been competitive for Republicans, including in this year’s Senate race won by Democrat John Fetterman.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) didn’t hesitate Tuesday when he was asked if he was confident that his counterpart, Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), can continue to serve Pennsylvanians while in the hospital.

”[There is] no question that he can do the job, and he will,” Casey said.

Casey said he had not called Fetterman since he checked himself in for clinical depression treatment, out of respect for his recovery. Fetterman, who was elected last year, has been receiving in-patient treatment for the disorder at a Washington, D.C, hospital for nearly a month.

Casey added he has written to him and has been told Fetterman will return to the Capitol “soon.”

”I think it’s really important that he gets this help, no matter how long it takes,” he said.

The senior Pennsylvania senator also dismissed a question about whether Fetterman should resign, characterizing the suggestion as disingenuous. Supporters of state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin), who has been weighing a run for U.S. Senate next year, repeatedly questioned Fetterman’s fitness to serve in the upper chamber at a rally this month.

“I don’t agree, and I think that’s mostly coming from political hitmen,” Casey said.

So far, Casey added, he has been pleased with Fetterman’s ability to continue his Senate work despite being in the hospital. He noted Fetterman has been working on a bill with him to address the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, while the two senators’ staff have consistently been working with each other.

His [Fetterman’s] constituent service team, just like ours, is up and running every day,” Casey said. “He’s done everything he can while trying to get better.”

Casey, who has served in the Senate since 2007, said other lawmakers have recovered from chronic health conditions in the past. He pointed to a stroke that sidelined retired Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) for nearly a year in 2012.

The Pennsylvania senator made the comments while on a visit to Harrisburg International Airport. He and airport leaders were celebrating a multi-million grant that will pay for an upgraded baggage handling system.

The maze of conveyor belts underneath the airport’s terminal processes a thousand bags a day on average. But the system is almost twenty years old, and those familiar with it said a lot of the moving parts can’t be replaced anymore.

“We had a decent inventory that kept us going, but that inventory is getting very low,” building automation specialist Ryan Kurtz said. Kurtz added one part of the handling system hasn’t been made for nearly three years.

All the while, the chance of a breakdown that could stall air travel there grows by the day.

The $5.5 million Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act grant will help the airport avoid that scenario. Over the next year and a half, the airport’s baggage system will be made more efficient and less prone to breakdown.

It’s one of many infrastructure projects Pennsylvania can now fund through the federal Infrastructure Act, which set aside $13 billion dollars for roads and bridges alone.