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‘Trumpism in a State Legislature’: Pa. GOP Removes Lt. Governor from Presiding While Refusing to Seat Democratic Senator-Elect During Shouty, Chaotic Vote


Republicans in Pennsylvania voted to remove Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman (D) from the Keystone State Senate chamber on Tuesday during a contentious and shout-punctuated vote which was immediately likened to an all-out assault on democratic institutions.

“Trumpism in a state legislature,” mused New York City-based attorney and legal commentator Luppe B. Luppen.

The contretemps began when the Senate GOP majority refused to seat incumbent Democratic State Sen. Jim Brewster, who represents the Pittsburgh-adjacent City of McKeesport in Allegheny County.

Brewster narrowly fended off a challenge from pro-Trump Republican Nicole Ziccarelli–notching a 69-vote victory on the strength of mail-in ballots. The GOP, in their efforts to discount mail-in ballots cast during the 2020 election, have taken Ziccarelli’s side as she mounts a legal challenge in the federal courts to Brewster’s since-officially-certified win.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court previously rejected Ziccarelli’s attempts to contest the election results.

The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Angela Couloumbis took stock of the extraordinary scene in a brief Twitter thread:

Ultimately, the GOP’s efforts to remove Fetterman, a self-described democratic socialist in the Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) mold, were unsuccessful. Fetterman stood his ground and did not leave.

“Fetterman did not leave the chamber or the rostrum,” according to the Inquirer‘s Abraham Gutman. “[The lieutenant governor was] ignored by the Republican senators in the majority.”

After that parliamentary procedure, the GOP anointed Republican Sen. Jake Corman as president pro tempore and made him the body’s acting presiding officer. Corman then began recognizing the commonwealth’s election results–with the glaring absence of Brewster’s re-election.

Vociferous objections ensued.

“There is nothing about this day that is appropriate,” one Democratic state senator shouted as Corman began to recognize those minus-one election results.

“And we will not lay down and roll over because we got more lawful votes than the folks on the other side of the aisle,” he continued. “This is about Pennsylvania–not Democrats or Republicans. This isn’t about someone winning. This is about protecting our democracy. That’s what this is.”

The GOP went on to steamroll their opponents. A calm chorus of Republican “ayes” followed the Democrat’s shouting.

“This is not a roll call vote,” the Democrat screamed again. “The president has not been acknowledged, has not been recognized–it is inappropriate to do such. We will not participate in this farce.”

But the ayes had it.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) heavily criticized the GOP State Senate majority–as well as the broader Republican Party–in a statement released after the fiasco unfolded.

“Republicans in Pennsylvania and nationally have spread disinformation and used it to subvert the democratic process,” he said. “Sen. Jim Brewster rightfully won the 45th Senate District, but Senate Republicans are ignoring the voters in the district and refusing to swear him in as Senator. This is a shameful power grab that disgraces the institution. It is simply unethical and undemocratic to leave the district without a voice simply because the Republicans don’t like the outcome of the election.”

“Voters, not Harrisburg politicians, decided this election, and Sen. Brewster is the rightful winner,” Wolf continued. “All ballots were counted and certified, and the results are accurate. Sen. Brewster received the most votes in this race and should be sworn in as the Senator for the 45th District. There is no precedent, and no legal rationale, for failing to do so. I will do everything in my power to ensure that voters have the final say in elections.”

Brewster, for his part, took the chaos and delay in stride:

Pennsylvania State Capitol observer Elijah Cohen noted that the removal attempt against Fetterman was only valid for the day and later addressed the seemingly astonishing nature of that action.

“Because they can, is what it comes down to,” he tweeted.

[image via screengrab/MSNBC/The Recount]

Editor’s note: this article has been amended post-publication to include a response from the governor of Pennsylvania.

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