PA House Leaders Still At Odds About Which Party Will Control in January
HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) - Leaders from both parties in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives spoke out today regarding the balance of power in the lower chamber for next session. The 2023-24 legislative session is set to kick off on Jan. 3 without a Speaker of the House, and without a clear majority party.
Yesterday, in his final few hours as Speaker of the House, Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) ordered a special election for Feb. 7 to fill Rep. Tony DeLuca’s vacancy. The long-time Democrat from Allegheny County passed away in October. DeLuca remained on the ballot because the county had already began printing them for the Nov. 8 General Election. Per the state’s election law, candidates cannot be replaced on the ballot once counties begin printing them.
DeLuca ended up being re-elected, which ultimately gave Democrats the edge over Republicans by one seat: 102-101. However, whether DeLuca’s vacancy can, or should, count toward a majority is the source of debate between party leaders, and confusion on who will control in January.
Rep. Cutler, now the leader of the House Republican Caucus, said earlier today that people are what count for a majority.
“The fact that there is a tie at 101-to-101 means that there is, in fact, no majority. That also means that there is, in fact, no majority leader. There is a Democrat leader and a Republican leader,” said Cutler. “What we don't get to do is count vacancies towards a majority. You cannot have a majority in a 203 body with 101 people, because people are what counts,” Cutler added.
Democrats argue the majority party is determined based on the number of elections won, not the number of members sworn in. House Democrats did win 102 seats, including DeLuca’s.
“Today, the Democratic Caucus is the majority party in the State House of Representatives. This isn’t a ‘misplaced’ designation, it is a designation our caucus earned through the results of the 2022 General Election,” said House Democratic Leader, Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia), who held a virtual press conference earlier today. “By picking up 12 seats and closing the gap in the state House, Democrat’s influence has grown tremendously; and we intend to exercise that influence in every committee and on every bill,” McClinton added.
McClinton says she realizes the majority is narrow, but that it’s a majority nonetheless. She adds that Pennsylvanians sent a strong message on Nov. 8.
“Admittedly, our majority is narrow. Unlike our predecessors we will not be able to run roughshod over members’ rights or silence the opposing party. This is good for governance,” said McClinton. “Pennsylvanians are ready for something different. They are tired with business as usual in Harrisburg. And they rejected fear, hatred, and division,” she added.
There will be two additional House Democratic vacancies in Allegheny County after Rep. Summer Lee is sworn into Congress on Jan. 3 and Rep. Austin Davis is sworn in as Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania on Jan 17. The next Speaker of the House will determine what dates those elections will be held.
One of the first orders of business for the House is to elect a Speaker of the House, which may be a difficult task given the current number of House members who will be voting on Jan. 3.