Pa. reps support tossing out votes
In the early morning hours Thursday, after the tear gas cleared and police retook the Capitol, most of Pennsylvania’s GOP congressional delegation voted to effectively ignore the state’s voters and tip the election scales toward President Donald Trump.
Many Republican lawmakers had announced plans to hold up or oppose the approval of electoral votes, signaling their opposition to president-elect Joe Biden’s November win. But after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, forcing evacuations and leading to five deaths, some switched their plans or committed to less disruptive objections.
Not so for most of Pennylsvania’s Republican representatives.
Only one — Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, voted to recognize the state’s electoral votes. The rest, including Rep. John Joyce, R-13th District, and Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-15th District, were among the 138 House members who opposed the vote.
“Today, I signed the official objection to the Pennsylvania electors ahead of tomorrow’s Electoral College certification vote,” Joyce said on Twitter a day before the vote and the Capitol siege. “We must fight for free and fair elections — and the rule of law.”
A week earlier, Joyce had attributed his decision to “legitimate accounts of election fraud and irregularities,” a claim that echoed Trump’s own unproven allegations of fraud.
Like many Pennsylvania lawmakers, Joyce claimed decisions by Gov. Tom Wolf and state election officials made it impossible to guarantee the final vote count, leading Congress to throw out the state’s votes altogether.
“We must acknowledge that unconstitutional acts unduly impacted the presidential election in Pennsylvania,” he said on the House floor.
The effort was doomed from the start, and some Pennsylvania representatives from Trump’s own party sharpened their rhetoric against him after the Capitol bloodshed.
“We witnessed today the damage that can result when men in power and responsibility refuse to acknowledge the truth,” Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said. “We saw bloodshed because a demagogue chose to spread falsehoods and sow distrust of his own fellow Americans. Let’s not abet such deception.”
In the end, the vote to reject Pennsylvania’s electors failed. And Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who joined Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, in objecting to Pennsylvania’s result, drew heated criticism from the state’s delegation.
“(Hawley) is talking about Pennsylvania because he wants to come here and run for president someday,” Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District, tweeted during the debate. “The lies he told inspired today’s violence. He is still telling those lies. Pennsylvania will never forget.”
to seat colleague
Central Pennsylvania’s lawmakers were unified this week in denying a seat to a Democratic colleague who narrowly won his November election.
Local senators — Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair; Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre; and Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Cambria — all voted Tuesday to set aside the seat to be occupied by Jim Brewster, a Democrat.
While the seating of new members is usually a smooth process, Republicans objected to the narrow 69-vote difference in Brewster’s race. Opponents claimed questionable mail-in ballots put Brewster over the top, echoing similar GOP claims across the country.
In a 29-20 vote Tuesday, the Republicans who control the Senate agreed to hold Brewster’s seat open, drawing national news and spurring angry responses from Harrisburg.
“This is a shameful power grab that disgraces the institution,” the governor said. “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.”
Lawmakers spotted during Capitol siege
While some state legislators battled in the media over Brewster’s seat, some current and former General Assembly members traveled to Washington to join the protest that overtook the Capitol.
Colleagues have called for state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, to step down or face removal after he attended the Wednesday rally. Mastriano, who spoke with President Trump in the election aftermath and decried “fraud” in Pennsylvania, was photographed at the protest outside.
“(When) it was apparent that this was no longer a peaceful protest, my wife and I left the area,” he said in a statement after the incident.
Corman, who serves as president pro tempore of the Senate, said there is no basis to remove Mastriano from his seat.
“He assured me that he did not participate in any unlawful activities,” Corman told reporters.
Also in attendance was former state Rep. Rick Saccone, a western Pennsylvania ex-lawmaker who recorded a video backing the siege.
“We are storming the capitol. Our vanguard has broken thru the barricades. We will save this nation,” Saccone wrote in a post online. “We are trying to run out all the evil people and RINOs (Republicans in name only) that have betrayed our president.”
Saccone resigned from a college teaching position in the aftermath.
Other state lawmakers — including some who echoed Trump’s concerns about supposed fraud — condemned the siege as the full scope of the incident became clear.
“My heart is heavy tonight and I pray for our country,” Ward said in a Twitter post hours into the siege, after police had retaken the Capitol. “The violence at the U.S. Capitol is not what we as Americans are about. We have rules and laws for a reason — to prevent chaos.”