Political News

Pennsylvania GOP state senators' refusal to seat Democrat leads to chaotic ceremony

Posted January 5, 2021 5:51 p.m. EST

— The Pennsylvania Senate's swearing-in ceremony devolved into a chaotic scene on Tuesday when state GOP senators refused to seat a Democratic member who had won reelection and seized control of the proceedings from the Democratic lieutenant governor after his objections.

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. The Pennsylvania Department of State has 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.

The scene drew swift backlash from Democrats across the state, including Gov. Tom Wolf, who 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," Wolf said.

"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," he added.

The state Republicans' case for not sitting Brewster rests on a lawsuit filed by his opponent, Nicole Ziccarelli. She is seeking to overturn her election loss through the removal of some Allegheny County mail-in ballots that didn't include handwritten dates on their outer declaration envelopes.

It's unclear how long the state GOP plans to keep Brewster's seat empty.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

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