The Pennsylvania State Senate’s swearing-in ceremony devolved into a chaotic scene on Tuesday January 5, as Republicans in the state Senate blocked a Democratic lawmaker from taking his oath of office and removed the Democratic lieutenant governor from his role overseeing the proceedings.
Republicans in the chamber made a motion to not seat state Democratic Sen. Jim Brewster, whose narrow win in November is being challenged by his GOP opponent even though the Pennsylvania Department of State confirmed his win.
When Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman objected to the motion insisting that Brewster be sworn in, the state GOP took the rare step of seizing control of the proceedings from him.
GOP state Sen. Ryan Aument introduced the motion to not seat Brewster until “such time as the Senate had the opportunity for further consideration of the contest petition.”
However after Fetterman refused to recognize the motion, Aument charged “It is your duty to put a motion properly before this body. If you continue to refuse to perform your duties, the Senate will proceed to replace you with the interim president pro tempore.”
At the same time, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, a Republican, approached Fetterman at the front of the chamber before addressing the body as the new presiding official.
As Corman began to speak, though, Democratic state Sen. Anthony Williams offered a fiery retort, announcing loudly: “Mr. President, I totally object to this.”
“This is inappropriate. You are breaking the Constitution and the laws of the commonwealth and violating the oath of office you have actually taken. There is nothing about this day that is appropriate; nothing. We will not lay down and roll over because you got former folks on that side of the aisle. This is about Pennsylvania, not Democrats or Republicans.
“This is not about simply winning, it’s about protecting our democracy. That’s what this is.
“We will not participate in this farce.”
As the Republican majority began a roll call to officially remove Fetterman from presiding, Fetterman continued to stand at the rostrum looking down on Corman before ultimately leaving the chamber when new members with the exception of Brewster were sworn in.
Governor Tom Wolf who reacted to the incident, said in a statement;
“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.
“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.”
Brewster narrowly won reelection over Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli, who is asking a federal judge to throw out the election results. At the center of that legal dispute are several hundred mail ballots that lacked a handwritten date on an outer envelope, as required by state law. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed those ballots to be counted, which gave Brewster the edge in the race.