Pa.'s Statehouse Descends Into Chaos

State-certified election winner Jim Brewster denied oath of office in Pa.
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2021 7:49 AM CST
Chaos as Pa.'s GOP Senators Refuse to Seat Democrat
One fourth of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is sworn-in, Tuesday, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.   (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

Republican senators in Pennsylvania refused to seat a Democrat on Tuesday despite his state-certified election win, resulting in chaos. Democratic State Sen. Jim Brewster of Allegheny County defeated Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli by just 69 votes in the Nov. 3 election, according to state-certified returns. But Ziccarelli has sued in federal court, arguing she is the true winner since 311 counted mail-in ballots lacked a handwritten date on the outer envelope, per the AP. The state Supreme Court decided that wasn't a sufficient reason to throw out ballots. But GOP senators, arguing they can refuse to seat a member who lacks the qualifications to hold office, say the seat shouldn't be filled until results are reviewed. Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa says they're taking a page from President Trump, refusing to accept valid election results, per Spotlight PA.

"Any delay is inappropriate, simply because Senator Brewster is the winner of this race, but further because the residents of the 45th will have no voice in the Senate" during "votes on critical issues of election reform, COVID relief, and judicial gerrymandering," a rep for Costa tells WHYY. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, argues Republicans are working to "subvert the democratic process" because they "don't like the outcome of the election." It was a day full of "bitterness and rancor" as Republicans removed the Democratic lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, from presiding over the session, after he failed to recognize a Republican motion blocking Brewster's oath of office, per Spotlight PA. In response, Democrats refused to vote for Jake Corman as Senate President Pro Tempore. This is "most often a largely ceremonial and bipartisan vote," per Spotlight PA. (More Pennsylvania stories.)

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