The Pennsylvania Senate’s swearing-in ceremony, which was usually a collegiate and joyous affair, was instead marked by shouting and bitter clashes on Tuesday.
Despite long, passionate speeches, Democrats argued that they had failed to convince Senate Republicans of Democratic Senator Jim Brewster of the 45th District of Western Pennsylvania. In a close contest with 69 votes, Brewster lined up his GOP opponent, Nicole Ziccarelli, according to the Foreign Office’s proven track record. But Ziccarelli has asked the Republican-controlled senate to reject the verified results, and he wants the senate to decide who to fill the seat.
Ziccarelli doubts whether undated ballots received from Allegheny County voters should be reported, which provided Brewster with this victory margin. Senate Democrats say the issue has already been settled by other courts.
Senate President Jake Corman, J-Corman of R-Center County, decided on Monday to leave the seat vacant for the time being until senators review Ziccarelli’s 500-page petition and Brewster’s 120-page response. In the end, the Senate did not plant Brewster Tuesday.
Democrats accused Senate Republicans of usurping the will of the electorate and preventing Brewster from taking a seat. Government Lieutenant John Fetterman, who typically holds the presidency of the Senate, called for a meeting of Brewster. After heated debates, Senate Republicans voted with Fetterman as president that day, and Corman took on that role.
The clashes continued with a majority of Democrats objecting to Corman’s election as the supreme president of the senate. The first day of the new legislative session proved to be fiery.
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“Shameful catch of force”
In a question about the Brewster meeting, Corman cited a provision in the state constitution that empowers the chamber to “judge the election and qualifications of members” as a reason for authorizing the Senate rather than the district election results to determine the winner of the competition.
Democratic Governor Tom Wolf on Tuesday strongly opposed this decision.
“Republicans in Pennsylvania and nationwide have spread disinformation and used it to subvert the democratic process. Senator Jim Brewster rightly won the 45th Senate District, but Senate Republicans ignore voters in the district and refuse to take the oath as senator. , ”Wolf said in a statement. “It’s a shameful seizure of power that shames the institution.”
He went on to “simply call it unethical and undemocratic to leave the district silent simply because Republicans don’t like the election results. Voters are not Harrisburg politicians who decided the election, and Senator Brewster is the legitimate winner. “
“All ballots were counted and authenticated, the results are accurate. Senator Brewster received the most votes in this race and must be sworn in as a 45th District Senator. There is no precedent or legal justification for failing to do so. “
The governor concluded his statement by saying, “I will do my best to give voters the final say in the election.”
Ziccarelli also has a lawsuit pending in federal court challenging the election results. Corman indicated on Monday that he was unsure whether the outcome of the case would influence senators ’decision on whether to replace Brewster or Ziccarelli.
The tempers flared
In a heated Senate debate, Steve Santarsiero, a state senator from D-Bucks County, has tabled a motion to authorize a meeting of Brewster.
“I understand that the losing candidates are disappointed, but the candidate’s disappointment can never result in the overthrow of our democratic process,” Santarsiero said.
He warned that this would set a dangerous precedent for our form of democratic governance and intervened in Washington DC over the debate over the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
Senator Ryan Aument, of R-Lancaster County, interrupted him several times, calling on Santarsiero to limit the scope of his argument.
Santarsiero continued: “We can talk about the abolition of fair and free elections. What could be more fundamental to us than Pennsylvaniaers and to us as Americans. All this because a candidate is not satisfied.
The tempers flared as procedural and counter-motions were made to allow or stop the debate over whether Brewster, who was sitting in the room, should be sworn in. A shouting outbreak broke out when Republicans voted 14-11 to set aside the election results for the 45th Senatorial District.
Shortly afterwards, Fetterman refused to recognize Aument, instead allowing a Democratic senator to speak. Republicans, in accordance with Senate rules, proposed that Corman take over Fetterman’s duties that day as president of the chamber.
Noise erupted when the motion was put to the vote. When it came time for Senator Tony Williams, D-Philadelphia, to vote, he said, “I don’t know what the hell is going on here,” before he voted out loud. The movement eventually passed by 14-11.
For a while both Corman and Fetterman stood at the grandstand, Corman stood at a lower level, with Fetterman upstairs. Senator Katie Muth, of D-Montgomery County, sitting in the front row of the chamber shouted Corman to step aside.
“Let him do his thing,” Muth said, referring to Fetterman.
Fetterman insisted on remaining in control and said a few times, “The chair won’t let the speech through.” Both men recognized the senators ’speech and added more chaos by the senators talking to each other.
Corman looked popping up, holding the papers with trembling hands as Megan Martin turned to Senate MP for guidance. Fetterman watched from above for a while, until he finally gave in to the speaker when a movement that would have allowed Brewster to sit failed.
Brewster remained in the chamber all along, sitting quietly at the Senate table in the back of the chamber while reading the election results of the other 24 senators in the district race. When the reading of the results was complete, Williams shouted the results of the 45th Senator District Competition.
When the oath of office came for the properly elected Democratic senators in November, Brewster was encouraged to join them in front of the rostrum. Corman made it clear that the oath would not be issued to any of them while he was standing between them, which caused the ceremony to stop.
After a brief pause, Williams said he was objecting to Senate Republican action, Brewster unwilling to withhold the oaths of his other Democratic colleagues.
At the end of the ceremony, applause erupted in the chamber, followed by acceptance of the contact list. Then Brewster set off, leaving the flower vase on his desk. Fetterman left soon after.
In a later interview with PennLive, Fetterman said, “When Senator Brewster left the floor, there was no reason for me to stay in building chaos for the sake of chaos.”
“My first day”
Senate Republicans have longed the heavy feelings of refusing to include Brewster.
Senate Democrat leader Jay Costa of Allegheny County has called on his colleagues to oppose Corman’s election as pro tempore president. Art Haywood, Senator D-Philadelphia, echoed that feeling, saying Corman’s statement that he would not be allowed to swear an oath to Democratic senators if Brewster did not leave the speaker was surprised and a cause for concern.
“This type of threat release feature is a matter of serious concern,” Haywood said. “And I note that we have some heated moments in the Senate, but I am very concerned about this reaction and the suitability of the reaction to be a pro tempore president.”
Eventually, with the exception of two Democratic senators — Lisa Boscola, of Lehigh County, and John Blake of Luzerne County — they joined Costa and voted to elect Corman, who won a pro tempore post by 31-18 votes.
Republican senators rushed to Corman to give him congratulatory elbows and hugs as all Democrats except Boscola left the chamber. Corman thought he walked over to Boscola and hugged him before being escorted to the grandstand to make his remarks.
“My first day,” Corman said desperately as his first pro pro tempore presidential word.
After thanking his mother, Becky, his wife, Kelly, and his three children, for standing by him throughout his career, his 10-minute speech offered the Senate a timetable for continuation, which means greater transparency]to increase public confidence in the state government. He asked members to post their expenses online if they had not already done so. It demands lobbying reform. Among other initiatives, you want your campaign costs to be posted in real time.
And then he came to the conclusion that they were referring to the contradictions that prevailed on the day of the session.
“The things that unite us are much stronger than the ones that divide us with increased transparency,” Corman said. “I am confident that we can work together to improve life in Pennsylvania, especially for those who are in dire need of our help.”
The rush session began with a debate over wearing masks, which led to the adoption of a temporary rule proposed by Senate Democrats to leave everyone in the Chamber to face shield.
Some Republican members, sensory state John DiSanto of Dauphin County and Doug Mastriano of Franklin County, have so far resisted wearing face masks.
Jan Murphy can be reached at: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @JanMurphy.