PA GOP Senators refuse to swear in Democratic incumbent Senator Jim Brewster

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Ruth Fluharty, Staff Writer

The Republican-majority Pennsylvania State Senate refused to seat incumbent Democratic Senator Jim Brewster today in a decision described by Gov. Tom Wolf as having “no precedent or legal rationale.”

Following a long race for the 45th District Senate against Republican Nicole Ziccarelli, Brewster was declared the winner by only 69 votes. However, many of these votes were mail-in ballots not marked with dates on the outside as required by federal law. Everything else within the envelopes was correctly marked and filled out. When the issue was taken to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the ballots were declared valid and counted.

Now, members of the Republican party are hoping to take this matter to a higher court. If these ballots are deemed invalid by a higher court and therefore in Ziccarelli’s favor, she will be declared the winner by 24 votes.

Although Brewster has been certified as the fair winner of the election, the Pennsylvania State Senate is refusing to swear him in until a federal ruling is made on the ballots. Because the results have already been certified, Democrats expect the federal ruling to be the same as that of the State Supreme Court.

On the Senate floor, all other victors from the elections were able to take the oath of office and be seated. Following Ziccarelli’s prompting for the Republican majority to contest the vote certification while awaiting the federal ruling, the declaration of who is the 45th District Senator was tabled indefinitely. 

When the presiding officer of the Senate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman objected, a vote was called for Republican Sen. Jake Corman to replace Fetterman as presiding officer. Senate Republicans used their majority status to pass this, making Corman Senate President Pro Tempore. When Fetterman and other Democrats continued to object vocally to the blocking of Brewster’s seat, they were accused of disrupting and damaging the institution of the State Senate. Democrats walked off the floor before a speech from Corman.

Whether Brewster will be confirmed and seated as the 45th District Senator is unknown.